SMOHALLA — Résilience (review)

SMOHALLA — Résilience album cover Album · 2011 · Avant-garde Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
Wriggling sonic worms rippling through the undulating waves of the cosmos.

What are they putting in those macaroons? France has always been a nation that has taken the arts to places no one thought possible and that’s not only true in the kitchen with French food registering high on the yum-o-meter but in the 21st century, this is the nation that has been killin’ it in the extreme metal market all across the board but especially in the cross-pollinating fertile possibilities of black metal and beyond. Emerging somewhere from the Normandy region a band called SMOHALLA formed in 2006 and presented a new strange form of metal that gives credence to a new subgenre that could be penned “psychedelic metal” since despite it’s black metal connections, takes the listener into the far reaches of the space rock continuum and just happens to add a touch of metal gusto in fully adrenalized fashion. The band got their name from a 19th century Native American prophet from the Northwest region of the USA and the name means “dreamer” in the indigenous Sahaptin language. And what a perfect name for this band that exemplifies the most surreal of soundscapes that simulate the dream state more than anything remotely traditional compositionally speaking.

After two EPs the band that consists of Slo who handles the guitar work, percussion and vocals, Camille Giraudeau who handles bass and A.L. who conjures up the electronic wizardry and programming, finally released their first full length album RÉSILIENCE in 2011 and takes their space cadet ride presented on the first two releases goes for the jugular. Once again SMOHALLA boldly goes where no other metal band had gone before and created a bizarre concoction of dark ambient, operatic classical, progressive black metal and trip hop, only they take it to even stranger world as if the multiverse is collapsing on itself and various genres of sound are battling it out to dominate the successor of the throne. Seriously folks, music does not get more bizarre or surreal than this experimental and psychedelic sonic feast of avant-garde run amok. Imagine musical constructs that flow more like clouds slowly in the sky with subtle variations deviating from what preceded in a never changing structured yet formless march through time. That’s exactly what SMOHALLA deliver and on RÉSILIENCE they take these attributes to even more extremes.

Musically speaking, SMOHALLA develop small melodic riffs that blossom into an infinite number of variations that take form. Much like second wave black metal that utilized a simple riff that in the case of SMOHALLA seems mostly derived from Western classical sources but as the repetitive blockchain of riffage oscillates into the future, liberties are taken to differentiate the time signatures, dynamics, instrumentation and focus which at any time can bleed into another totally unrelated musical motif. While similar to the previous EPs, RÉSILIENCE is more relentless in its brutal attack and layering of styles over each other to create an extremely busy and surreal effect. One of the main elements includes progressive and tremolo picked angular black metal riffing which sometimes exhibits angry and raspy vocalizations and also employs clean Enslaved like vocals on their most progressive 21st century releases with similar chord progresses that are funneled through the schizoid grinder and given a healthy dose of acid blotter for good measure. The other major player is the atmospheric bombastic accoutrements that echo an epic soundtrack of clashing worlds while subdued choral utterances struggle to break through the caustic din.

The whole album flows with a trip hop sort of backbeat and even feels like it flagellates like a paramecium in a petri dish as the rhythmic pulses undulate like waves and exhibit the same unpredictability that the ocean does as it pummels the coast. Dream states come to mind when half baked ideas sputter into nothingness and suddenly drift off into completely new territory but not in a startling way but more in a connective way that creates bridges between randomness. Very strange stuff on this one and one that is perfect for those who crave totally tripped out metal that takes the listener on one of the farthest reaches of surrealistic sonic journeys. This is one of those albums that i can never quite grasp. It’s like wrestling a giant jellyfish in a bathtub and never knowing what’s really within reach. It’s just tangible enough to grasp rhythmic patterns and melodic embryos yet somehow leapfrogging counterpoints distract and disorient all reality. If you want WEIRD metal, then look no further than SMOHALLA. This will surely be too bizarre for most but recommended for those who crave the most intense WTF experiences possible.
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666sharon666 wrote:
4 months ago
Reviewer's Challenge points: 3

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