Painted a particularly severe shade of black, Six, despite the season and its sinister atmosphere, is not a Halloween album. The Black Heart Procession is not a novelty act. This fact, however, seems harder and harder to discern, as the band’s descent into self-parody finds them precariously spinning in an open grave of affected baroque moodiness. A good portion of the band’s appeal has always been based on personal taste, relying on your capacity to tolerate sullen fatalism in exchange for the atmospheric jolt they provided. The band works exclusively in dirges—albeit sweeping, often impressive ones, where cellos growl and the double bass is forebodingly plucked. At their best, which they are not often here, they sound like an otherworldly Fleetwood Mac, with trilling strings and vocal harmonies that build to an elegant pitch. Yet while the band seemed to wake up a little on Amore del Tropico and their 2004 collaboration with Solbakken, on Six they fall back into routine with a thud, the tempos sluggish and the mood consistently dry. At times this fascination with dark, eerie sulkiness can have a certain kind of weird charm; more commonly, it’s a grating, self-serious masquerade. “Wasteland” is a prime example of the profoundly silly levels to which this stuff can rise, with its “I’m not leaving/Until the devil is dead” lyrical sludge and clunky T.S. Eliot references. Songs like “All My Steps” mildly surpass this formula, prizing ambiance and interesting percussion over dusty gloom, but it’s a rare bright spot in a work of unappealing, exaggerated darkness.
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