Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Princ Persii - Princ Persii (2014)

Hyphenated Virtuosity

This album I've been aching to review for a long time. Princ Persii, a now-defunct Saint Petersburg band, took shape after the dissolution of a screamo project sometime in 2010, played a few shows, quietly plopped out a self-titled 25-minute digital release, and promptly disappeared again. Their members are unknown, their internet footprint is a negligible blip on Russian social media, and non-existent in the west; not counting a limited cassette release earlier this year, no labels have ever been in touch with the band. What I'm trying to convey here is that the public eye/ear hasn't been very kind to Princ Persii, and I fear their contribution to the so far predominantly western post-black scene has not yet and will not for a long time receive the acclaim it deserves.

That is a massive shame, because Princ Persii has created a unique, invigorating piece of work here. The sludgy guitar texture and pummeling, low-end riffs characteristic of post-metal – think Omega Massif – are melted down and poured in a mid-paced post-black mould, imbued with crusty/post- hardcore rage redolent of Ancst and tempered in a shower of mournful atmospheric flourishes. You would think a style requiring so many hyphenated subgenres to describe would sound either inordinately contrived or wholly untethered, but by virtue of Princ Persii's meticulous craftsmanship it's kept solid, concise and riff-centric all the way through.

Out of the murk that is “L” – a dark ambient piece with what I'm assuming is a female spoken-word sample from a Russian-dubbed film – a despondent bass guitar arises, etching out “IX”'s simple but hooky main riff, which is then engulfed by the twin guitar surge – rhythm and lead guitars bifurcating in palm-muted chugs and gritty, soaring highs and reuniting again to deliver the key chords. Over the course of two minutes this chord sequence is repeated, tweaked, broken up and filled in, until it collapses in a morose, vocal-driven dirge – never just milling about but always determinedly moving forward, aided by the excellent percussion, which is crisp and has a knack for finding gaps in the rest of the instrumentation to caulk with fills.

While “C” and “F” are more simple, subtle ambient synth pieces – interludes without the ambition or need to be more than that – “II”, “I” and “VIII” tread in IX's footsteps; “II” with less focus on The Big Riff and more on song dynamics – fury and melancholy, hold and release, short bursts of intensity followed by protracted swathes of dark alluvium – while “I” takes this post-rock quiet-LOUD philosophy to its logical end and seamlessly alternates between frenetic episodes of high-speed battering and introspective, clean noodling. It's also on “I” that the vocals – like a less constricted, more slavic relative of Altar of Plagues's rasps – shine the brightest, furiously exhorting and punctuating the guitars and occasionally breaking to reveal the human beneath.

Marks are detracted for the marginally less interesting closer “VIII” – which, in its atmospheric-intro-into-blasting bipolarity, stands out against the dynamic songwriting prevalent in the other songs –, but otherwise Princ Persii is a stellar achievement, exuding a confidence and self-knowledge seldom witnessed in bands so young and underground. The mix helps with this, every instrument getting equal room and utilizing this to the fullest, and while the lower end of the percussive spectrum may occasionally get buried in the action, these blurry teeth do not significantly detract from the engrossing wonder that is following how the fine cogwheels of Princ Persii's watch interlock and swivel. Sound-wise, comparisons can be made to the earlier-mentioned Altar of Plagues and the Czech ██████, but with interesting stuff happening all the time, which immediately brings Vattnet Viskar's self-titled EP to mind: both bands opt for conciseness and heaviness over the atmospheric vistas characteristic of the genre, and manage to convey this with not just aggression but also sophistication.

If metal with any post-elements appeals to you, do your duty and give Princ Persii a chance. 


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