Title: Reborn in Butterfly
Release Date: 18 January 2019
Format reviewed: Digital Promo
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to splice a Black Metal assault with a jazzy Mr. Bungle jam session? I hadn’t, but perhaps now I will never need to. While it would do a disservice to Italian band HANORMALE to reduce the range of approaches and ideas on their “Reborn in Butterfly” album down to this pithy summation if I had to sum up the music here in a few words that would be my best shot. It’s a marriage which is not always fluid, in fact, it is often extremely jarring, as the band switches from one form into the other and back again. How intentional this abrasiveness is I really don’t know, maybe it’s exactly what the band intends.
Sitting through this album from start to finish has me more than once imagining how an extremely abusive relationship might feel. There are periods of soothing calm, which at any moment can suddenly turn on their head into a violent attack. These sharp turns put me on edge and by the end I’m in a heightened state of anxiety, feeling energized, tense and somewhat resentful towards the band for putting me through this. And while there are times during some of the frenetic barrages where I think I won’t ever willingly put myself through this again, by the end of the disarmingly elegant piano driven closer “Requiem for Our Dead Brothers” I’m soothed enough to put myself back into that abusive environment.
The album opens with “It Is Happening Again”, a re-imagining of the Twin Peaks theme backed by a gritty, grimy Black Metal instrumental. The tone actually works well, and the ominous melody of the original them is carried over a backdrop of hammering drums and guitar, brought to an eventual crescendo by blaring saxophone and a final scream closing the song out. If all of this sounds a bit weird, it is, and while this opening doesn’t really prepare the listener for what is to follow, it does somehow fit the album overall.
A jazzy avant-garde sensibility hinted at in the opener is made more explicit in the second track “Like a Hug, Darkness Embraces Us all”, which starts out like a barroom scene in a Lynchian daydream. The piano, bass, sax, and drums that come bursting in feel like a complete change of direction, funky and jaunty. Sombre and brooding vocals enter in, interspersed with occasional Black Metal growls. The music itself holds on to the seedy, barroom aesthetic, but the occasional overlay of Black Metal vocals is incredibly jarring. Initially, I found this combination horrible, and in some sense I still do, but there’s something very intriguing about it.
While the band varies their means of exposing the listener to this strange dichotomy of slightly unsettling barroom jazz and Black Metal, violent shifts from one aesthetic to the other are pretty much the order of the day here. Tracks like “Satan Is A Status Symbol” and “Candentibus Organis” set out fairly attractive and beguiling scenes of understated piano and light flouring drum fills, shifting this way and that, before aggressively thrusting a Black Metal battery right in your face. Often these transitions are extremely blunt and to an extent can feel pretty incongruous. That being said, the mild emotional trauma of these sudden bursts does add some kind of drama to the experience as a whole, which would otherwise be a low key and perhaps forgettable soundtrack to a misty, absinthe spiked evening in a dark Prague piano bar, as pleasant as that might be.
While the clash of styles definitely takes some getting used to, and at times feels like an intentional aural assault, the contrast really works to the benefit of the music in some instances. The graceful and melancholic “Hakuzosu” twice caries a brooding, string laden atmosphere and mournful vocals through a hammering percussive storm, to great effect. Meanwhile “Iperrealismo” takes its time to build up a lurching, jazzy scene that Mike Patton would feel at home walking through before a Black Metal growl heralds a shift into deeper layers of darkness. Similar dynamics are explored on “The Search For The Zone” while on “Human” the band applies their Black Metal banditry to a far doomier scene, more reminiscent of Type O Negative.
On “Ghettoblaster BlackMetal” the band forgoes any contrast, opting instead for a full, unadulterated Black Metal blast, while “Rare Green Areas” offers 5 minutes of what could perhaps be a Satanic summoning (I don’t know, I don’t speak Italian), before seguing into another 5 minutes of some kind of pseudo-industrial battery. Positioned as they are at track 5 and 8 of 12, respectively, they do perhaps fit with the strange arc of the album, but of themselves, they are wholly unappealing.
Overall though, I give HANORMALE credit. This is not an easy album to like. The band is adept at creating an appealing, dark atmosphere, only to bulldoze it with an aural attack, seemingly on a whim. It’s one thing to stand out in a freezing Black Metal landscape for 40 minutes, but it’s another to go through 70+ minutes of a surreal lounge jazz evening, where the doors get blasted off every few minutes and a demon rushes through to scream in your ears, before exiting and allowing you to get back to your drink. And yet, this strange pushing and pulling does leave a lot to digest, definitely offers a different experience and like a serial abuser is charming enough to entice the listener back for more. 7.5/10 Tom
7.5/10 Victory is possible
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