SEAR BLISS - The Haunting (II MOONS - CD 1998)
Two years have passed since the release of the utter amazing debut album “Phantoms” and the second CD of Sear Bliss has been unleashed by II Moons, titled “The Haunting”. I mentioned in my review of “Phantoms” how much I appreciated the debut, how well it’s been composed, how great is the unique style of the Hungarian band. So, obviously my expectations for the second album were huge… Of course today I know this CD since many years already, so I have a strong opinion regarding it for a long time now… and I’m afraid it’s not quite as positive as my view of the previous record. I don’t want to moan too much and I also don’t want to change my overall opinion about Sear Bliss – because they will always be an exceptional band for me, but probably “The Haunting” belongs to my least favourite records from them, sorry to say that! It’s almost a disappointment when compared to such an excellent “Phantoms”, which was near perfection in almost every aspect. “The Haunting” is obviously sort of continuation of the debut, but I simply don’t feel like this material is as strong and as well composed as I would hope.
So, what went wrong here? I said that “The Haunting” is a continuation of “Phantoms”, because it surely is. Sear Bliss maintain their style’s trademark aspects such as a combination of rough black metal with a lot of atmospheric parts and the great usage of brass section, which fills a lot of the album together with the keyboards. But maybe what went wrong here is that the album became slightly too soft and over melodic in its major parts, in my opinion. On one hand Sear Bliss still has quite few black metal parts, but they’re all played in slow tempos, with rather simple riffing and too often accompanied by the keyboards, which may underline the atmosphere, but at the same time remove the harshness and aggression. “Phantoms” for me was perfectly balanced when speaking of the combination of atmospheric music and rough (black) metal. On “The Haunting” that scale went dangerously too much in favour for the melody, softened sounds and atmosphere. The riffs may still sound quite heavy and maybe not so typically black metal anymore – and surely there are some strong guitar parts here and there - but mostly they’re just strangled by the ever present keyboards. Keyboards dominate here, they even overshadowed the brass section, which is rather unfortunate, taking for consideration how great work it has done on the debut. OK, not all keyboards here sound bad, sometimes it’s fine, but my tolerance has been tested here quite few times I am afraid.
But I guess the main problem here is that it simply is not as good material as the previous or some future records. There are obviously some nice moments, some good songs – but none of them is as good as such “Aeons of Desolation” or “1100 Years Ago” from the debut. And when listening to the whole “The Haunting” I just feel slightly bored, as it becomes too monotonous after a while, when each song is played in similarly slow tempos, with similar keyboard parts and similar sort of riffs. I can again remind you how perfectly balanced and varied “Phantoms” was. “The Haunting” is just not good; there are some fragments that I like… but the whole album is simply mediocre.
Ha, I bet now that my whole review sounds rather negative… But I don’t want to make you think bad about Sear Bliss. It’s still a great band and “The Hanting” is… hmm, let’s just say that I do enjoy this record occasionally haha, but when compared to some other materials of the Hungarians, it’s simply not their best. It is unharmful, easy to listen to music, which you can play as a background to some meaningless works. But that’s it… it is just something what comes in at one ear and out at the other. Sounds rough? Hehe! But maybe if it wasn’t all so slow and so damn over melodic, then it would be better?! Who knows. The excitement, which I have when I listen to “Phantoms” or “The Grand Destiny” is just not present here. There’s not even one song, which I would fully love. So… I give this album 60/100, although I know that some people rank it higher than I do.
Standout tracks: “Left In Dark”
Final rate: 60/100