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Seek - Kokyou De Shinu Otoko review


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Band: Seek
Album: Kokyou De Shinu Otoko
Release date: June 2023

01. Meijitsu
02. Shinkai
03. Kuroi Ame
04. Tonari De Onaji Shi Wo
05. Ikyouto
06. Yogiri Ni Utsuru
07. Ichiaku No Zanka
08. Kokyou De Shinu Otoko

After over 20 years, Japanese sludge/blackened hardcore group Seek have released their first full-length record on Silent Pendulum Records. Well, it’s their first full-length at least according to the label; it rather highlights the arbitrary nature of record classification if this 37-minute record from 2007 is considered an EP, while a 30-minute record released in the same month as Kokyou De Shinu Otoko is considered a full album.

Intriguingly enough, this isn’t the first 'debut' album I’ve reviewed this year that has come from a project allegedly with over 2 decades’ worth of history; the self-titled release from Curse Of Cain supposedly fell into the same category. One can’t help but wonder over the implications of such an event: how many of those 20-plus years have involved meaningful activity from the group, or at least the project's leader, and what inspires a group to refrain from recording for such a long time, and to then deem it an appropriate next step? At least in the case of Seek, there are releases dating back to 2007 on their old Bandcamp, including a split with This Gift Is A Curse back in 2015. Kokyou De Shinu Otoko nevertheless represents a major event in the group’s history.

Seek are fairly reliably referred to as hardcore whenever I find reference to them online, and it’s a slightly curious trend. There is certainly a hardcore component to their music, in a manner that resembles groups such as Hexis, but even back on that 2007 ‘EP’, they were writing songs with lengths far beyond those one would expect from hardcore songs. Sludge metal’s origins are commonly described as a fusion of hardcore and doom, and while Kokyou De Shinu Otoko isn’t necessarily the most generic rendition of sludge, it does take the venom and tonality of hardcore, particularly more modern, metallic forms of it, and extend them over longer, frequently slower slabs of malevolence. One could refer to it as post-metal, but it overall lacks the dynamic contrasts to really fit into that niche (although 朽ちていく中で arguably does), instead sticking more consistently for loud abrasion. This debut is some kind of blackened sludge/hardcore amalgamation, and as one might expect from such a fusion, it’s pretty grim and heavy.

“Meijitsu” shows the presence of each of these three genres; there’s some punky bursts, but also a dense, grim black metal core to the sharp, tremolo riffs, and a sludgy fury to the slower sequences. In contrast to the versatility of this song, some subsequent songs focus on specific elements; “Shinkai” eschews the frenetic outburst in favour of a more oppressive trudge, while the album’s shortest song, “Ikyouto”, pulverizes listeners for the bulk of its runtime. “Yogiri Ni Utsuru” shares an inclination towards slower tempos with “Shinkai”, but approaches in a discordant black sludge manner, the drums delivering a slow pounding while the cacophonic guitars summon up a chaotic maelstrom of sound.

Other songs show a wider range. It’s probably unsurprising to hear that the album’s two longest songs, “Tonari De Onaji Shi Wo” and the title track, are the ones closest to post-metal, with both featuring a greater amount of quiet, ominous, atmospheric downtime within their runtimes that serve to contribute to the dark atmosphere of the album. These contrasts only accentuate the potency of the hardest-hitting riffs and passages in both song, and leave me eager to hear more in a similar post-black metal vein should there be more from Seek in the future. “Kuroi Ame” also has Amenra/Redwood Hill-style intense contrasts, and also features a novelty for the album by including some clean singing, which is delivered in a perfectly gloomy and understated fashion; again, it would be great to hear more of this on any future material.

Whatever the reason was for Seek biding their time for all these years before putting out a full-length record, the music they’ve put together on Kokyou De Shinu Otoko collectively serves as a real statement of intent. This is dark, insidious music with just enough subdued contemplation amidst the furious aggression and sinister suffocation; the album title apparently translates to ‘the man dies in his hometown’, and by the sounds of this, it wasn’t a peaceful death.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 8

Written on 03.07.2023 by Hey chief let's talk why not

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