Review by Will Harris
Cody McCoy, the Michigan-based solo artist behind instrumental project Černá, made a bold claim in his statement describing the aims of the band, touting the work as “a musical expression of the many elements missing in modern music today.” The succeeding disclaimer in the same quotation that “this is from a personal standpoint” is already made redundant by the former sentence; the listener is immediately challenged to find something profound within Restoring Life.
The difficulty begins in that McCoy doesn’t give away what he believes those “missing elements” to be, but this actually works in favour of the album — you’re forced to listen thoroughly to try and unravel the mystery. It’s a risky challenge, because cursory listens will not turn up anything new; labelled as ‘post-black metal’, the music of Restoring Life is made up of exactly the type of thing you’d expect from such a tag, i.e. post-rock with strong elements of black metal. Dedicated sessions of undivided attention before the home stereo, however, soon unearth its treasures. The opening to ‘Woken In Prague’ is as intriguing a beginning to any record: the ominously loud ticking of a clock, soon engulfed by the rising, bassy feedback of guitars that tower then crash into one enormous power chord. The distorted remnants of this soon disintegrate among simple, shiny, contemplative guitar notes, in a manner that’s more compelling than cathartic, and from here McCoy carries you through the album’s story.
And the rest of that story is no less engrossing. For Černá, the act of restoring life, as in reality, is not an easy one; it’s a struggle between many forces and determining factors. Throughout, parts frequently fight in different directions, whether that’s individual instruments vying for position, ambient sounds, tempos, or even just a certain fleeting vibe that surfaces for one brilliant bar before disappearing into the deep again. The bright but heavy chords of ‘Společně Part I: Shy Sun’, for instance, are echoed in key and feel in ‘Part II: Laying Down In The Rain’, but the latter is slower, drifting downwards, as its title suggests. This is no easy descent, though, ‘laying down’ can infer restful bliss as well as reluctant resignation, and McCoy emulates such a contradiction by turning powerfully between distorted-guitar triumph and sombre, submissive clean sections.
Elsewhere, other battles go on: ‘Part III: Night Sounds’ sees slow chords weaved with pouring rain and other ambient urban sounds, and they mingle and merge so deftly that at times it’s impossible to distinguish guitar feedback from sirens, or shimmering cymbals from distant car tyres spinning through wet streets. Sound a bit too dreamy? Well, it has its thrills too. Černá’s racing heart pumps furiously with the immediate black metal speed of ‘Part IV: Embrace The Stars’, and McCoy isn’t afraid to disturb the acoustic slumber of ‘Part V: Lullaby’ with yet more frantic power, and, via fade out, that’s how he chooses to close the album.
So between Černá’s relatively standard set-up of mostly guitars, bass and drums, what missing elements of modern music does Restoring Life really express? Well, it gives you an emotionally potent, musical narrative of exactly what its title describes. And how much modern music can you say does that?
8.5 out of 10
- Woken In Prague
- Společně part I: Shy Sun
- Společně part II: Laying Down In The Rain
- Společně part III: Night Sounds
- Společně part IV: Embrace The Stars
- Společně part V: Lullaby
- Restoring Life (bonus)
- Isa (bonus)