Have you ever wondered what it would sound like if Dick Dale played black metal? Me neither… that is, at least until I heard Negative Plane’s sophomore release “Stained Glass Revelations”. Certainly, black metal has been yoked with a lot of different styles: prog, crust punk, jazz, shoegaze and folk from just about every nook of Europe. For better or worse, someone always seems to find black metal a new bride. Still, I can honestly say I never would have envisioned an album like “Stained Glass Revleations.” Negative Plane plays an avant garde brand of black metal that is accentuated through a wealth of surfer rock and psychedelic rock sensibilities.
Perhaps that sounds like a recipe for kitsch album, but Negative Plane pull it off in a tasteful way. It’s not as if they’re playing witty little two minute black n’ roll ditties; this is a serious album full of intricate musicianship and powerful aesthetic. The guitar playing is really elaborate. The album is overloaded with quick, slippery leads that race up and down the fret board, recalling 60’s surfer rock sounds. While the lead guitar fires off colorful notes like a disco ball, the rest of the band provide an entrapping backdrop. The bass has a really cool hollow sound, as if it were some homemade wooden instrument. The eerie and quirky organs add more psyched out sensibilities, sounding inspired by Ray Manzarek of the Doors.
“So, where’s the black metal?” you might asking. Well, the rock elements certainly do not stop “Stained Glass Revelations” from having a very occult feeling to it. The production is vast echoic, making the record sound as if it were recorded in some old cobblestone church. NV’s husky shouts sound like some alchemist reading an ancient spell. The artwork, lyrics and horror house interludes all add to the album’s ghostly spirit. Aesthetics is where the album really succeeds. Everything comes together to make the listener feel like they’re chasing some troublesome apparition through an abandoned chapel.
Unfortunately, the album depends on style to take it the distance. While the musicianship is stellar and the style is unique, the songs themselves are not especially notable pieces of songwriting and on the whole, the album feels fairly redundant. After the first three tracks, the band’s whole bag of tricks has been exhausted. From there on out, the album is basically about rearranging those elements. Yet, the songwriting fails to engage. These are long tracks, ranging from seven to twelve minutes, but they feel bloated. Negative Plane fails to pull the listener to the edge of their seat, waiting for an especially enticing moment or memorable track. The songs themselves aren’t that distinct. While the clean parts, such as the clean guitar intros and magical organ passages stand out, the actual metal passages all sound pretty similar.
Without much in the way of songwriting, “Stained Glass Revelations” runs out of gas before the finish line. Though the band has a cool sound, their music comes up short on substance and range and consequently becomes innocuous by the last few tracks. Still, Negative Plane deserves praise for an imaginative take on black metal and impressive musicianship. Definitely worth a listen for those who are interested in new and different sounds in the realm of black metal and especially for those black metal fans who are also fond of 60’s rock.