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Canaan : Blue Fire

'Blue Fire' introduced to the world the melodic soundscapes of Italy's premiere atmospheric doom band, Canaan. Mauro Berchi delivers hauntingly beautiful vocals with a mixture of English and Italian, and masterfully blends his voice to the guitar, keyboard, and slow rolling drums built around him. 'Blue Fire' was an instant classic upon its release, and garnered critical praise while carving out a successful niche for Canaan (it didn't hurt that Mauro also heads the label).

I cannot overemphasize my love for this band. Canaan, and 'Blue Fire' especially, crafts an ethereal dream world of sound. The opening track, 'The Eleventh Shadow', immediately pulls the listener into the doomy atmosphere with its mixture of hauntingly clear guitar over sludgy distortion. Mauro begins his lyric work instantly and the instruments layer under his voice. The track is short, and ends with a nice melodic retreat. 'Thin Concentric Circles', embellishes the point with more poignant build-up of guitar and keyboard. Vocals are subdued here to more of a chant, but the groove is maintained. 'Incantesimo D'Autunno' stands out as the gem of the album as it most concretely reflects the album's melodic groove of doomy, depressive aesthetics.

The problem I have with 'Blue Fire' is the same difficulty I have with all Canaan releases. It is now expected when listening to any Canaan album that an instrumental, perhaps experimental track will slide between each "normal" track. The wonderful build up of instrument into voice of every vocal (I call it "normal") track always culminates into a climax and rewarding retreat. The truly ingenious aspect of a great Canaan song is that the individual is representative of the whole album. 'Blue Fire' begins with an incredible opening that is short and to the point, perfectly drawing the listener in to the mood. Guitar and drums build upon the vocal layer to establish a groove that demands attention. But there is quite an emotional let-down with the second track, 'Dreamsword', which is little more than abstract noise. With the exception of 'Aranea Tedii', each of the "noise" tracks serves only to alienate the listener from the incredible atmosphere of preceding and subsequent "normal" tracks. This is not to say that the noise tracks are not expertly crafted and artful, they are simply out of place.

An alternative view of the juxtaposition of noise and normal tracks is possible. The true appeal of Canaan is the layering process of instrument and voice. The layering process is certainly not unique to Canaan, although their mastery is evident, and it could be argued that the layering is spread across 'Blue Fire' with the use of the instrumental tracks. Each instrumental track acts as an intermission of sorts between emotional journeys, making each song act as a layer to the whole of the album. The concept is terrifically conceived, but I fear that it acts detrimentally to the enjoyment of the album. When the opening track ends, there is such a rush of enjoyment and anticipation for more development on track two, but 'Dreamsword' is nothing more than a series of abstract noises, and from the plateau that 'The Eleventh Shadow' established, a precipitous fall. This is evidenced again with 'Temporal Stasis'.

Perhaps that is the intent - to carry the listener on a rocky ride of emotional involvement, which is intriguing, but I feel disappointed. When so invested in such unique and depressive music, I do not expect nor desire to be immediately immersed in a cold pool of noise. I've connected to the mood and have been essentially slapped across the face for doing so. Thankfully, I can easily skip the noise tracks and immerse myself back into the beauty of Canaan.

Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. The Eleventh Shadow
2. Dreamsword
3. Thin Concentric Circles
4. Aranea Tedii
5. Incantesimo DīAutunno
6. Temporal Stasis
7. Noir (Your Coloured Soul)
8. Doloris Charisma
9. Moongod
10. Splendorīs Bearer
11. Orien
12. The Luminous Trinity
13. Our Little Hidden Treasures
14. This Grey Enemy

Duration : Approx. 61 minutes

Visit the Canaan bandpage.

Reviewed on ??-??-???? by Matt Hoffman
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