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The Undergrave Experience : Macabre – Il Richiamo Delle Ombre

The Undergrave Experience’s first album is filled with Italian horror films’ vibes.

It has proven somewhat difficult to get much in the way of background information on this debut release, but all the indications are that The Undergrave Experience is a continuation of the solo project work of the Milan-based Marcel (aka Mors Taetra) also responsible for the Black/Death Malefic Mist and Ambient Black Dump. This latest incarnation is a move into Funeral Doom territory, with an album inspired by classical Italian horror movies.

'Macabre', subtitled 'Il Richiamo Delle Ombre' ('The Call Of The Shadows'), consists of just two tracks, clocking in at 24 and 19 minutes respectively. As befits an experienced musician credited with several previous releases, it has been well-produced and mastered, with a crisply powerful sound in which all the instrumental and vocal components can be clearly heard. A nod of respect must be partly due to the label – Solitude Productions/BadMoodMan Music – as this level of quality seems to be fairly consistent across their releases.

Fans of the frequently-lauded Italian horror film genre will already be quite aware of its tendency to mix menacing surreality with graphic and shocking violence: fans of the Italian experimental and underground music culture will equally be familiar with the frequent emphasis on artistic perfectionism in the merging of different influences. Perhaps both simply indicate that the country where the original Renaissance man flourished still produces more than its fair share of innovative and multi-disciplined artists: regardless, it should come as no great surprise to hear that there is some real musical and compositional talent at work here.

In terms of sound, there is a probably inevitable – given that it is a Funeral Doom album – technical similarity to the complex layered sound of Shape Of Despair, although this is in no way attempting to the recreate the Finns' sense of atmospheric melancholy. Instead, it sets out an orchestral tapestry that alternates between gothically-tinged foreboding and distorted, threatening aggression. It's not easy to draw any direct comparisons, but it variously calls to mind the controlled fury of Void Of Silence, the unsettling gothic moodiness of MonumentuM and the cross-genre experimentation of Cultus Sanguine, with – possibly deliberate – hints of the film and computer game scores of both John Carpenter and Akira Yamaoka.

If that sounds like a complicated sonic analogy, it is meant to be. The mix of massively distorted and clean guitar, piano and synth themes, semi-spoken, semi-growled vocals and ambient atmospherics may be a traditional one, but the result is not. It sounds as though it genuinely could be the soundtrack for a real movie, just as it stands, albeit perhaps one of the more left-field, Lovecraftian offerings: Ivan Zuccon, say, rather than Dario Argento. Taken as it is, as a standalone album, though, it is simply a brilliant exercise in creating a unique and fascinating, powerfully emotive piece of music.

Although the album is divided into two tracks, it could just as well have been presented as a single entity. The longer opener, 'Mater Mortalis Tenebrarum' ('Mother Of Mortal Darkness') is a shade more bombastic and terrifying, the shorter 'Zombie Graveyard Horizon' is a slightly colder invocation of dread. Both, though, share recurrent thematic elements that really make them parts of the same whole deliciously morbid experience: the creepy, descending piano lines that run between and over the drawn-out, tortured guitar and sinister voice which carry the main storyline. In that gradual evolution, it could even be considered as somewhere between progressive and modern classical, and the title 'Macabre' perfectly captures the nature of the journey.

In summary: highly recommended for anyone who has a passing interest in any of the topics listed above, or likes to experiment with some of the more esoteric fringes of the genre. Hard to classify it may be, undeniably as murderous as it is melodic, and best listened to in the dark, through headphones – but definitely best listened to!

Reviewer's rating: 8.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Mater Mortalis Tenebrarum
2. Zombie Graveyard Horizon (Ballata Mortale)

Duration : Approx. 43 minutes

Visit the The Undergrave Experience bandpage.

Reviewed on 2011-09-27 by Mike Liassides
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