Our first review of 2012 and we’re off to a cracking start with Austrian metal outfit Cadaverous Condition, an extreme metal band who indulge in heavy, doom-laden riffs and guttural vocals referencing such acts as Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Celtic Frost to deliver a solid, powerful album of morbid, vicious metallic thunder. Not counting various EPs and live efforts, ‘Burn brightly alone’ is Cadaverous Condition’s fifth album, the band having been formed sometime back in 1990, and the band’s experience shines through these tightly honed thirteen tracks as the band take you on a trip through the darkest recesses of the human psyche.
Opening with a strong track is always advisable and ‘ghost’ is a perfect opening salvo – a sludge-laden riff announcing the band’s first material since 2006 whilst the vocals are delivered with crushing precision and brutal contempt, bringing to mind the recent and most excellent vallenfyre album. As the tempo shifts and the song kicks into high gear, the primal throb of the song is hard to ignore and the sheer viscosity of the riffs drag you straight into Cadaverous Condition’s hostile world. ‘Driftwood’ neatly side-steps the doom path and heads straight into mid-tempo death metal territory with pounding bass lines and a surging riff offering no quarter at all. Like Satyricon stripped of the atmospheric and industrial tinges and unleashed at the most primal level, it’s thrilling, heart-pounding stuff that is engaging and exciting in equal measure… All of which makes the next track somewhat surprising – an odd mixture of beautifully melodic music and growled vocal, it is strangely incongruous until a startlingly heavy riff kicks in and shatters the mood to pieces with a contemptuous swipe of its hobnailed boot. What else could follow such a schizophrenic song but a sub-three minute acoustically-styled track which gives a fair idea of what Cradle of filth unplugged and covering the Beach Boys might sound like? It’s an interesting idea in principal but in execution the growled vocal/acoustic guitar contrast doesn’t work as well as it could and the clean vocals introduced for the chorus complete the feeling of unreality that overshadows the track.
Things get back on course for ‘alone I travel’, a vicious walk on the wild side which proves to be one of the heaviest tracks on the album thus far with steely riffs and dense drumming proving to be a far more apt backdrop for the apocalyptic vocals. ‘Wicklow nightfall’ predictably does the unpredictable by adopting a jazz-influenced opening before shifting into a strangely alternative track that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Pixies record with its wailing guitar line and acoustic strumming – it’s a nice track that is suitably hypnotic before the band uncoil their pent up aggression on the anthemic ‘use your blood’ which features Helmet-esque guitar stabs, pitch harmonics and elements of early PL to devastate the stunned listener. The acoustics return for ‘into my river’ – a bare song that couples just acoustics and vocals effectively breaking the momentum reached by the previous song and leaving the band having to start over with the mystical ‘order of the forlorn’ which emerges in and out of a haze of chiming noise to unleash a torrent of pain and abuse before vanishing as suddenly as it appears. It’s an impressive, unexpected gambit that heads into ‘the clearing’ – a dynamic, raging beast that couples doom and ambient, death metal and drone into five minutes of immense music that is easily the high point of the record. Acoustics spar nicely with electric riffing on the folk-lore inspired journey of ‘the small roads’, the juxtaposition handled nicely by the band with neither one instrument over-powering the other and the song maintaining the earthy, organic feel essential in folk music even whilst clearly residing in the heavy metal camp. A doomier approach then appears with the viscous, vicious ‘shine unseen’, one last full-on stomp before the band closer things out with the subtle, atmospheric ‘deathless’.
‘Burn Brightly Alone’ has much to commend it. It is certainly an album that requires more than a few listens to fully appreciate its benefits but it is also flawed. The oft-repeated trips into acoustic territory don’t always work, and there are those who will find the contradictory nature of lush acoustic backdrops and growled vocals confusing to say the least. That said, when taken as a whole the obvious overall flow to the album becomes apparent after a few listens and the quieter tracks begin to settle and feel more natural. Meanwhile the heavier aspects of the album are brutal in the extreme and often awe-inspiring. It is clear that a hefty intelligence lies at the core of Cadaverous Condition and this is a fine album to acquaint yourself to them with, but those seeking a full-on metal assault should be aware that there is a far more progressive bent to CC’s music than may initially be apparent. Overall for those with a taste for unconventional, intelligent music this is a very worthy purchase.