Written by: DR on 14/12/2011 14:08:21

I consider myself a fairly patient music fan. I often take the promos that are deemed 'experimental' and would consequently take a fair amount of patience getting into, at least - I exclusively take anything released by Denovali Records. However, German outfit Kodiak seem to have taken the task upon themselves to test even the most patient listener with their self-titled album. An album that lasts the best part of an hour would be fairly typical album length, right? Anything over an hour is slightly pushing it, and anything that's slightly longer than that is pushing it still. This pushes it even further, for it lasts for TWO hours.

Whatever your feelings about an album that lasts this long, this is ultimately what we have here. Whether or not this is considered the 'norm' for doom/drone/metal bands I'm not sure, but it's certainly one of the longest and most challenging albums I've ever listened to. Or, at least it tries to be.

There are only seven songs, the shortest of which is almost eight-minutes and the longest twenty-one minutes. It seems as though Kodiak are aiming for an epic masterpiece of ambient, droning, dooming metal that consumes the listener in their world for two hours. Such ambition is commendable, but, quite simply, the songs have no reason to last so long. For instance, a band like Godspeed You! Black Emperor would write twenty-minute compositions, but they never felt that long. Engaging the listener over such a time is a very, very difficult skill to get right - you have to absolutely nail it to make the songs worthwhile.

There are some nice ideas in "Kodiak", such as the opener "Beginning", which uses orchestral string instruments in the same song as powerful metal riffs and an eventual climactic and cinematic crescendo. The ideas are good, the execution is not. The song is stretched so far and thinly for the sake of a twenty-minute composition, for no reason other than to have a song that lasts so long, that the ideas feel disjointed as a result, and would be better served with tighter song-structuring. One of the main problems with the first half of the album isn't even that the songs are long, it's that there is no reason for them to be such lengths. It's that there is rarely a build-up of layered instrumentation of textures; when the instruments eventually do swell, there's no grand culmination of varying sounds that have been slowly winding towards a big finish that requires multiple listens to begin to appreciate. As such, it makes the song lengths needlessly excessive.

Kodiak do get it right for the second half of the album. "MCCCXLIX the rising end" and "Radon" are the best songs on the album because they aren't wasted on silence, as Kodiak instead create static-y backbones from which to build bleak, apocalyptic metal atmospheres in rare moments that fully engage the listener for their duration. "Xenon" is an ambient, pulsating affair that offers a comforting period of relaxation after the previous destructive efforts that sees the album out on an unfamiliar yet accomplished tone.

In conclusion, "Kodiak" feels a somewhat imbalanced record. The second half of it is a vast improvement on the first, and it's no coincidence that it's when the band stop playing around with 'silence as a sound' and stick to what they clearly know how to do: construct atmospheric metal compositions. It still remains, though, that "Kodiak" must be taken as a cohesive whole. Simply put: half of it is good and half of it is not. "Kodiak" doesn't prove an album that lasts for two hours is too long, but two hours of "Kodiak" definitely is.

Download: MCCCXLIX the rising end, Radon
For The Fans of: Cult of Luna, Pelican
Listen: Denovali page

Release Date 09.09.2011
Denovali Records

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