Painted Girl - Familiar Trees of the North West
Familiar Trees of the North West
May 22, 2022
The album begins with a solitary note. That note drops down and begins to repeat, creating a pacy but calculated rhythm. A distorted bassy sound strikes along with the note until both are dashed along a metallic floor. The note drops out and we are left with a slow but sinister pounding, as if some horrifying armoured creature is lumbering into view. The note returns.
Already one can tell that the mixing and mastering of the project will be important factors. The mix is dulled, like that of black metal. Synths turn to sludge against the grainy percussive backdrop. A heavy overlay of chords present a feeling of uniformity, like some great force bearing down upon us slowly. The percussion continues its measured onslaught as the chords begin to deviate from the main melody. The texture is beautifully skeletal, a great deal of the sound coming from the light reverberations of everything off of what sounds like a stone courtyard eons ago.
All falls out. No sound for a moment, until we find a small hum searching the landscape solemnly. Panpipes fade in gently, a ray of light from a far window within these dusty ruins. The pipes transform into squealing synth notes playing out a small, somber tune like a jester in the nook of a huge court. Watery notes begin to fall before us clearer than anything we’ve heard thus far. They bring with them whistling pads. The texture is completely overhauled, yet the trundling rhythm stays stalwart. The melody brings with it a feeling of muffled triumph. Percussion crashes once again, a hue of dark and dulled sound is conveyed from every aspect. The wall of sound breaks and a cacophonous guitar solo pierces through the din. No sound relents, somehow all his held in place and walks like some great leviathan right past us.
On an exploration through Zer0 れい’s back catalogue, the same sorts of melodic and rhythmic movements are apparent. But most if not all are fed through a wildly different concepts and genres. Though the artists pastes small motifs and affectations from all sorts of genres, one usually stands in prominence. The stubborn textures of this project lend themselves to the elusive genre of dungeon synth. In the last breaths of the first side of the project, the relentless beating of the drums, the strange soloing from the organ-like instruments and the stubborn levels of compression shine a strange visage of triumph in an antiquated context. Zer0 れい’s artistic focus moves like a great amalgamate of so many different influences and inspirations, dragging this ancient sounding force through the realms of something much more modern.
Acidic cymbal work sprays itself across the soundscape. Organ notes play a solemn tune, the individual keys struggling to achieve their own individual prevalence. They move as one solid feeling of sadness. The soloing guitar from the first half cracks against the dim sounds created. The organ drops out and the guitar is left alone, it strikes out as if from a hilltop on a great war-torn countryside. The hum of reverb sounds like a thousand men clawing at each other in the meadow below.
Silence as the crawling, heady hum begins to stretch itself out once again. Suddenly, heavy drums kick in, two sudden blasts followed by a repeating flurry. A deep, hellish organ sound appears once again. Our window into melodic salvation, this lonely organ note is often the first and last thing we hear. And it always sounds as if it doesn’t know where it’s going. Leading us down labyrinthine riffs without conclusions. It finds itself in another uplifting sequence helped along by a breathy, cold pad sound.
A large breath of nothing. But it is not uncomfortable, the project is one of subtlety and patience. Again, the drums spray out like robotic, pirouetting courtiers. The rhythm always allows for this sense of poise, like every finished bar ends with a troop of dancers bowing to each other. A melody perks up through the skeletal drum segment. It drives through with melancholy desperation until the power of it is lost behind a sheet of echos.
We ready ourselves for what will surely be the final stroke from the strange dwellings of Helveterra. The drums burst into cascading stardust as a pacy, marching rhythm cuts through the quiet. The guitar begins another heavy riff tinged with an antiquated sense of drama and emotion. The bursts of sound are slow but meaningful. The feeling that this is the last we’ll see of this decimated land is apparent now in the melodious sequence that now drives towards us. The sound breaks. A familiar quiet settles in.
Helveterra smoulders and bubbles like some brewing incantation. Zer0 れい makes a home of his own within the cryptic characteristics of dungeon synth. He brings a new and unavoidable spin to the heavy and drudging aesthetic.