Upon the Shores of Inner Seas
To the outsider looking in, the introduction of gothic elements – namely, those of keyboards and their attendant gloom-infested atmospheres – to the world of death metal may seem like a compelling proposition, and to some extent, it’s proven itself as thus; take, for example, the equally compelling past and present work of Amorphis and My Dying Bride. However, when previously death-entrenched bands wholesale trade in the death ‘n’ doom for more conventional gloom ‘n’ doom, thereby severing any semblance of logical evolution or consistency between records, the end result starts smacking of Type O Negative commercial viability (not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself), and more-adventurous souls who were ingratiated by a given band’s sound of yore have more than enough justification in fretting.
Recorded in May of 1999 but recently licensed to worldwide distribution, Mental Home’s Upon the Shores of Inner Seas is exemplary of the above aesthetic dilemma. Like now-labelmates Tiamat, Moonspell, and Samael, Mental Home began as a fairly cookie-cutter doom-clouded death metal band but, over the course of four albums, mainstreamed their sound into something not too unlike metalized gothic rock. Now, with their fifth album, Upon the Shores of Inner Seas, hitting American shores, the Russian band is revealed as equally cookie-cutter gothic metal. While not really miring themselves in the Sisters of Mercy syndrome that Tiamat has, Mental Home doesn’t really have much personality to offer, which the former at least still possesses in sufficient amounts.
The main problem with Upon the Shores of Inner Seas is that it barely treads water in a pond of mediocrity – far from being a bad album, but also far from being an interest-retaining one. Throughout much of the album, Mental Home cling to sing-songy melodies that, by virtue of being such, become almost laughably predictable; it’d be one thing if a couple songs, max, followed this route, but when nearly the whole album does, listening to it starts looking like a drive through Indiana. The keyboards utilized here are pretty disposable, adding little in the way of texture or ambience; guitarist Sergey Dmitriev’s unremarkable vocals pretty much do the same.
As a writer, it wears down the psyche to pan a record where you know the band is truly trying their damnedest to succeed. However, if Mental Home want to evade cutout bins in the future, they’d better try a lot harder next time around.
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