SMOHALLA — Smolensk Combustion (review)

SMOHALLA — Smolensk Combustion album cover EP · 2006 · Avant-garde Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
Sometimes the name of a band tells the tale of the way their music sounds assuming you understand the origin. SMOHALLA is one such band that formed in 2006 in the Normandy region of France but took their name from a Native American prophet associated with the Dreamer’s movement in current day Washington state. In fact the name SMOHALLA means “dreamer” in the Sahaptin language which in recent years has neared linguistic extinction. The term actually describes this bizarre avant-garde metal band’s overall style quite accurately since the mix of a post-black metal style of aggression commingled with progressive rock and electronica indeed paints a surreal dreamy haze of musical flow that takes angular angelic atmospheres and punctuates them with heavy jagged metallic outbursts.

The band consists of three members. 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. While a mere trio, these musicians pump out some of the most bizarre and surreal metal music i’ve ever heard. And i’ve heard a lot! SMOLENSK COLLECTION was released the same year of formation initially as a demo but soon became a fully fledged EP in retrospect as it is readily available for purchase on Bandcamp and included in the band’s overall discography. The band cite many Gothic and avant-garde prog metal bands as their influences including Ulver, Ved Buens Ende, Solefald, Arcturus, Elend and even Pink Floyd.

If there was ever an argument for the adoption of the “psychedelic metal” tag then SMOHALLA fits that bill perfectly since beginning with this very first offering they offer an entrancing display of ethereal sonic dreamscapes that utilize innovative and unpredictable melodies and atmospheres to join hands and take a musical journey into the far reaches of outer space and beyond. While the hypnotic electronic sounds can imitate Portishead-esque trip hop and downtempo, operatic female vocals emerge through the misty haze to add touches of calming classical music before the storm of jagged angular guitar riffs punctuate the serenity as black metal raspy vocals scream from a distance. There are many elements in the music and too many to mention as the clever crafting of samples, twisted distorted metal and pneumatic episodic meandering dominate the soundscape.

While initially released as a demo, none of the tracks on SMOLENSK COLLECTION are available on other releases and therefore an essential listening experience if you happen to fancy the most progressive side of Enslaved mixed with the angular grace of Arcturus in the distorted continuum of Maudlin of the Well. At times frenetic and at times a mere flow of cosmic sound, SMOHALLA is one of the strangest bands that falls into the metal world that can be heard. Think of this as an interdimensional clash between progressive black metal, avant-garde operatic symphonies and Shpongle-esque psybient touch as heard on the nine minute dark ambient closer “Lethal Silence.” While this may have achieved the status of EP, it does retain a demo like production level but despite that i actually find this a very interesting and exciting listen since the music is so powerful that the somewhat flat and tinny mixing only adds another layer of surrealism as if one must burrow deeper into the next dimension to fully appreciate the full-spectrum experience.
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666sharon666 wrote:
10 months ago
Reviewer's Challenge points: 3

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