To know the basics of the Finnish black metal band Verge, read my recent review of their '08 EP here. This is the group's latest release, and their second full-length album in total.
The album presents fifty minutes of mature and dedicated black metal in a darker, more brooding and less speed-charged manner than on the previously mentioned EP. One could describe the album as a melancholic one as well, but the word might mislead you into thinking the album sounds light or easy, which is far from the truth. The songs are mostly mid-pace and employ a fair deal of repetition in their riffs to deepen the dim atmosphere. One guitar and bass take care of the basic riffs to create a sturdy foundation, whereas the lead guitar focuses on delivering slower and cleaner melodies on top of them to provide the songs with an aura of mysticism. It's nothing too new in modern black metal, but it's stylish and works. The drums have a soft sound that retains from boosting the songs' drive, instead concentrating on delivering lively background movement.
The above described elements form the ground for the band's music. The lengthy songs take use of some acoustic interludes and surprisingly skillful guitar solos to create some airier calm amidst the dense layers of darkness, and the same applies for the basic and analogue synths that are often present, creating some lighter backing for the songs and delivering some additional hiss and distortion here and there to give the album more mass and personality. "Sex & Violence" has a rather clean soundscape, and although it's dark and sturdy and by no means too soft or even, the additional ambient- and noisy elements are still a warmly welcome add to make the songs sound even more lively - and they have an important role in enhancing the surroundings of the most repetitive riffs. One could describe the soundscape as polished and thought-out, but still raw and very dynamic - same as the music, that is.
The vocals are used sparsely, but all the more effectively - the instruments have been given room to breathe and to explore. The vocals are dry, shouted croaks that aren't too interesting on their own, but their varying effects (from no additional distortion to the distant and echoed howls on "Death Coitus") and them being used so rarely makes them finish the songs perfectly. They sound tormented, which fits both the music and the lyrics perfectly. The songs feature some human voice-samples as well, which further deepen the atmospheres and make up for the vocals often being absent.
Verge puts a lot of effort into their visual side, and I can safely say that "Sex & Violence" is one of the most colourful (yet still dark) black metal albums I've seen to date. Don't be mistaken by the hieroglyph-like figures on the cover; the booklet holds a lot more stylish, vivid and mysterious paintings that should provide one with a good dose of visual stimulance to enhance the listening experience. The lyrics are written as contemplations about man's restrictions and one's true will clashing with humanity, about self-development, loathe and disgust - if I got them right, that is. They're written from a very personal standpoint which makes them harder to grasp, but also leaves them open for one's own interpretation. Getting acquainted with them shouldn't leave their reader unaffected.
The album is a 52-minute monolith that should clearly be listened as a whole, as otherwise the opener's faster pace, the calmer ambient-sections of "Persistence in Failure" and "Pride," as well as the barer and more repetitive 12-minuter "Pride & Vanity" would lose a lot of their power and meaning. "Sex & Violence" is not easy listening and features rather artistic choices in its samples and its reliance on riffs' dynamics. This album is dark and melancholic, and clearly a result of a great amount of effort, time and dedication - and not in vain, as it truly evokes thoughts and emotions. There are a few weaker moments with too repetitive riffs and just a hint too clumsy transitions which keeps me from giving the album a higher grade, although these moments were most likely left in the songs due to their meaning to the album's whole; calmer and simpler moments are needed if one doesn't want his/her senses dulled.
I hope Verge is proud of this album.