Artists of War IV Part 1: The Black Review

 

Artists of War is the unquenchable thirst of one man with three distinct personalities. Brad Olsen is the mechanic behind this dark machine of riveting musical destruction. With his previous full length release, Black Dragon, Olsen moved into sludgier, doomier territory expressing hallucinatory imagery in his lyrics while throwing out some truly impressive and heavy riffing. The Black, the first half of AoW's double album, takes a lot of what made Black Dragon great and synthesizes it with even spacier melodies and far more epic rhythms for a production Olsen describes as "Transcendental Black Metal".
"Uplifter" is a strong opener that pulls no punches. Both of Olsen's vocal styles absolutely rule this song, mixing shrill omnipotence with deep, monstrous brooding. The song descends to a slow breakdown that includes a pretty rad drone-style solo. "White Hyabusa" is a bit more experimental and while interesting didn't really strike my fancy too greatly. I did enjoy the howls thrown into the vocals on this one, but there's something about the lyrical pacing that struck me as odd in some places. Of course, trying to wrap your head around AoW's lyrics is like trying to solve a Rubix cube with your feet.
The epic drone doom interlude "Mammon" leads into one of my favorite tracks, "Heart of Man". This 8 minute monster is the perfect centerpiece for this record. The riffs churn and jive, boasted about atop a well conceived drum part that holds back in all the right spots while still blasting away. Though never straying far from its original rhythm, "Heart of Man" is easy to get lost in. The lyrics are some of AoW's best, confronting humanity's obsession with conflict and self-destructive apathy.
"Midnight Run" is another great track with some fantastic vocals and and drums that captures your attention easily with its less-than 5 minute run time. "Leviathan" is a fun little guitar solo that takes us into the latter half of the album, highlighted by "Let Go My Ego". The progressive attitude from some of AoW's earlier work is present on this tune with some mind-crushing guitar work and oddly harmonious, brutal vocals. Again, I must stress the examination of AoW's lyrics if this album interests you, because they are ridiculously awesome.
The Black is perhaps my favorite release from AoW so far with its larger-than life, self-produced grandeur and its subtle exploratory moments of wonder. Bottom line: get this album, it is well worth it. Stay tuned for my review of the second half of Artists of War IV, The Grey.

THE BLACK

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