Apostate is not exactly a new band: It was first formed back in 1993, after which it took them quite some time before they released a demo, âCosign to Oblivionâ in 1995. Two
years later an EP by the name âA Song of the Dead Lake
â came out. Lacking commercial success, together with the fact that the line-up of the band had been far from stable in the years of its existence, the outfit disbanded in 1998. The next year it was reformed in a different line-up, but no new releases saw the light until they split up a second time in 2001.
Despite the fact that the band had indeed built up a certain fan base as a live act in their homeland the Ukraine, it seemed that that was it for Apostate.
History however sometimes takes unexpected turns. 2007 saw the compilation release of the two 1990âs productions together with some unreleased material. The good reception of this album stimulated former bassist Oleksandr Kostko to blow new life into the band. Intensive live performances and several gigs together with much better known groups resulted that Black Art Productions became interested enough to release a full length album, which came onto the market in October 2010. Itâs name is âTrapped in a Sleep
â and it is the subject of this review.
So far for the good news for the time of being. Without saying that it is a bad album, I must unfortunately conclude, that it is in no way outstanding. Had the album come out in the early years of the bandâs existence, when black metal was still new, bands still sparsely distributed and interest in something new easily sparked, they might have stood a good chance to attract considerable attention. But the reality is that now itâs 2011, with Black metal bands poking out of every pore of mother Earth
and many distinct sub genres have been populated. The more mainstream area of the Black Metal branch is outright overcrowded and as Apostate is more or less seeking its niche over there, they are running a large risk of going unnoticed as just another tree trunk in an endless forest.
A main problem of the bandâs sound is the lack of stylistic distinctiveness. Generally it is seen as Doom Black Metal, a classification that is fine with me as there certainly is much to speak for that in their music. But apart from that the group includes lots of other style elements in their compositions. Those listening to the album will quickly recognize the trash and symphonic influences, but there are even more than those. Even the vocals, which in a majority of song parts make for the clearest Black Metal element, know a great lot of variety, venturing as far as standard heavy metal and even hard rock here and there. In the first half of the nineties when the style was still one single experimenting cauldron, such might have had its attractions, but with fans now generally adhering to more narrowly defined sub-styles, gathering a larger core of devotees for such âfusionâ Black Metal is difficult.
The Doom element in the music on the album is more consistent and easily recognizable, all of the lyrics and many of the instrumental arrangements having a gloomy undertone. But this emotional flavor is rather rule than exception in more than a few metal sub-styles nowadays. So, no matter how well Apostate pulls of this part of their artistic element, it hardly makes them stand out from the mass.
For sure the band has its points of strength and they certainly deserve to be mentioned. For one thing, despite all the line-up changes they have gone through, the four musicians make the impression of a solid union. In this they sound more like they have been playing for many years together instead of having been recently reformed after a very lengthy hiatus. Their present label Black Art adds to this by outright solid mixing and generally good production. So, no negative words about the solidity of the album; In this it scores quite high. I guess this impression of cohesion in their playing was greatly helped by the fact that the band has live experience far outdoing their rather meagre list of releases.
Also the artwork of the album is of an elaborate nature and done according to high standard. But as with a lot in their music it is not really typical for Black Metal. Looking at the front cover not a few might get the idea that content of the album is probably melodic metal with strong fantasy/science fiction influences. Beautiful it is however. So is the bandâs logo as presented on the front cover, but again here more than a few might be led astray from the Black Metal nature of the music by the clearly defined âlovers heartâ in the middle of the logo.
To the music of the album. With one exception the tracks are all rather lengthy, ranging between 7.5 and nearly 12 minutes. Even when visible effort is applied, the first three tracks of the album fail to make much impression, and I would call them just average: Dozens if not hundreds of bands could have laid down something like that. The fifth title on the album âFilling the Voidâ is the first one that captured my attention somewhat more. Here in fact the rather raw and distorted, deep vocals are the only thing that reminds you that the band has a BM background. The instrumental part shows strong influences of Trash metal and prolific keyboard in the songâs later part also gives it a somewhat symphonic undertone, rather slow tempo guitar solo interludes reinforce this impression even more. Vocals in the interludes also show that the singer has quite some bandwidth, being perfectly able to sing undistorted.
My favorite on this album is clearly the sixth track, âSisyphean Struggleâ, starting with an almost classical piano intro, as soon as the song gets into its main part it reminds you in some respects of early Black Sabbath
work. Vocals in the beginning are almost undistorted, but gradually gain in rawness. As the song develops, increasing keyboard presence again brings in a symphonic note, laced with a few good licks of melodic guitar soloing. I would like Apostate much better if they made songs like this one their mainstay. However a strange, seemingly out of place, bass interlude near the end does much harm to the total impression the song makes. The, for the band unusually short, final entry âEternal
Returnâ, which apart for some chanting is fully instrumental. In fact not a Black Metal track, but much more a symphonic piece with strongly martial drumming. It is certainly done quite well and lovers of the genre might really appreciate it.
All in all âTrapped in Sleep
â certainly is no miscarriage, but it is neither a great album also. In my opinion the band would do right to chose a more uniform musical concept in the future. I canât help the impression that Apostate would in all likeliness do better as a symphonic trash metal band, than in its present multifaceted form. 14 out of 20 from me for this effort