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Haven - Vessel

Haven
Vessel
by Kira Schlechter at 25 January 2021, 12:29 PM

The description of the German band HAVEN on its Bandcamp page – “downtuned atmospheric post metal with traces of hardcore meets alternative rock – is about as long as the songs on their latest three-song EP, “Vessel.” This EP follows their first, “Anima,” in 2018; the title “Vessel,” also according to their Bandcamp page, is “the counterpart to the name of” the first EP, “the physical form of our being, in relation to its spiritual form.”

So already we see they have a bit of a tendency to be long-winded. The opening track here, “Miasma” (the word means “a highly unpleasant or unhealthy smell or vapor”) is all of 14 minutes long. Decidedly ominous with dark chords and minimal drumming, the mix is kind of one-dimensional with not much resonance. Norman’s vocals are hushed and gently sung, and he could be much louder – actually everything could be. He switches to a harsh vocal as the music crashes around him, then goes back to his customary croon. His harsh is somewhere between a shriek and a true guttural vocal and that mix is unpleasant – it’s more interesting when he just sings, seeing as he doesn’t really have a “metal” voice per se and it’s a nice contrast to the aggression around him. The verses are erratic in rhythm within the words; there’s no rhyme scheme or definite structure. What could be considered the “bridge” is sparse and despairing, and boy, does it need to be louder, more defined, more pronounced and separated – everything is just a wash of sound, although the drums are fine, the low ones like a pulsebeat, the higher ones staying unobtrusive. There’s rather a mess of a breakdown that’s impossible to discern – screaming, no rhyme or reason to the melody and tempo – then a section that’s drumming, lots of cymbals, and a sludgy solo. The next section isn’t bad, with Norman’s musing vocal, Arne and Robert’s buzzsaw chords, and Sergey’s doomy drumming. It’s ultimately too long and not compelling enough, musically or lyrically, to support its length.

Speaking of lyrics, the band’s Bandcamp page calls them “apocalyptical yet hopeful,” saying they “address socio-political and cultural themes, focusing on the individual in interaction with his fellow human beings as well as the perception of his habitat.” Well, alright. But what they really are is kind of a series of musings and images and ideas with no discernible thread tying them together. With “Miasma,” there’s a passing reference to the title in the line “it injures the lungs that breathe for all,” and there’s some interesting commentary on, let’s say, a hope for humankind (“May we see that we are, all of what we are/Made to be not all light nor dark … In this motion of all, our role is minimal/And all we take, we only take from us/Til it’s gone”). There are definite references to the earth and presumably environmental destruction, with all the mentions of “her” and “May mother soon clean it all” and “May we see that we’re not her death, merely a wound,” and “What gave us life took care of all.” The chorus rather refers to the passage of time, it seems, and how we think we can control it: “I see the hubris in me/So our mind has taught, we’re in need to claim, that our being’s able to understand the way/But we don’t set the order and senescence (a fancy word for aging) will free us/So long. All even. Said and done.” The ending too makes a similar point: “All weight will leave you one day” and “All matter’s bound to decay” and “All might will cut us to size.”

“Samsara” (which in Hinduism and Buddhism is “the cycle of death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bound”) clocks in slightly shorter at 8 and a half minutes. Harshly strummed bare-bones guitar leads into a pretty nice, if very quiet, guitar melody and Norman’s clean vocal. You can feel the suspense building in the verses, and it strips down to that same melody for just a second before a detuned thundering stomp gets under way, which is not bad either, but his painfully not-tuneful screaming spoils things. The quieter “bridge” is interesting, with the programming and another sound guitar melody – the treatment of his vocal works well too, going from distant to intimate. This makes more sense structurally as a song since it does return to certain musical themes, but it’s still too long to warrant your full attention. And again, what’s being said is vague, although it does touch on the title here and there (“The fragile that’s you and I, feed cycles anew” and “As the mind is trying to perceive its kind/On does the river flow/We deny/As the sparks collide, on the cycles go, once and forever more, in spite”). These philosophical, stream-of-consciousness ramblings likely mean something profound to Norman, but they tend to lose much in the translation to a wider audience.

A respite comes with the last track, “Within,” at just three and a half minutes. It actually is pretty effective since it sets a mood and keeps to it. With just programming, a piano chord, and guitar, Norman’s voice stays hushed and pondering throughout. His voice sets a melody that nothing else follows, though, so it’s oddly disjointed in that regard. The theme here, too, is a bit more clear: that of death (“As the vessel comes to a halt,” that is, the body), “and it parts back to pieces … it bares the essence of its form/But we’re not made to see it/Would the image collapse our mind?” which is that whole idea of what happens when we die – do we revert back to “pieces” of the universe? There are thoughtful questions posed here too: “Does finitude (that is, having an ending) devalue life?” and “Can the guide be our mind … If the horizon ends beyond our eyes/Have we seen all our mind can be?” It also comments on the brevity and relative unimportance of our lives in the grand scheme of things when Norman notes, “And our elegy fades away in the aether.” All these ideas would be more compelling, though, if they’d just be more audible.

All in all, even experimental music like this has to relate to the listener in some way. If it requires all the explanation and exposition we’ve seen with “Vessel,” it might fulfill the performer but it may ultimately leave the listener flat.

Songwriting: 6
Musicianship: 6
Memorability: 5
Production: 5

2 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Miasma
2. Samsara
3. Within
Lineup:
Norman Siegal - Vocals
Arne Teubel - Guitar
Robert Kurth - Guitar
Sabrina Klewitz - Bass
Sergey Mareyno - Drums
Record Label: Independent
     


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