Thursday, February 16, 2017

Book Review: ALCHEMY OF PAIN (Tamara Picardo) by Dave Wolff

Oulu, Finland 2016
As one half of the dark metal/dark ambient duo Upon Shadows, Tamara Picardo has done her part to crack, splinter and shatter the perceived misery of metal that radiates less light than usual, atypically presenting it in a manner that resonates of beauty rather than ugliness, longing rather than loss, pleasure rather than pain, serenity rather than suffering. The band (Picardo with Natalia Arocena) has proven on their ten-plus releases that there is still room for experimentation in extreme music, many areas that remain unexplored waiting to be discovered accidentally or through the proper combination of elements.
With her 2016 published anthology Alchemy Of Pain Picardo captures this quality in print while heading a step further into unknown nonexistent domains waiting to be brought to life. This is a series of written verses and accompanying artwork, providing a visual representation of her musical and lyrical contributions to Upon Shadows. The artwork is a variety of designs in black, white and several shades of gray; the utilization of these colors are of varied conceptual ideas. While some may think the scheme is limiting, the application of colors goes beyond its perceived limitations. Picardo’s approach shows one doesn’t need an overabundance of colors for its own sake and fewer shades does not reflect a lack of imagination. The pieces rely on curves, straight edges, shades, heavy and light lines, patches of dark and sudden patches of light to get their point across. The effect is quite striking and illustrate the poems memorably. Prose Of The Atheist’s Soul describes “a hollow muscular organ/that knows nothing of love or pain.” The design that follows is of a woman cradled in such an organ, visibly perturbed yet in some sort of healing process. Humanity questions where we came from and what we believe we know of the afterlife; the art accompanying this is a gray humanoid shape (not established as angel or demon) approaching a humanoid shape seated against a curved foreground. We don’t know for certain where this human soul is going but can only imagine. Gloom describes grotesque night shelters, rows of stone houses, and a nightly search for a lost dream. The stark city landscape drawn for this poem relies as much on edges as it does on curves, and is slightly darker where it needs to be. Nostalgia speaks of lost words, distant destinations and fake smiles. The accompanying piece is of a woman sitting behind closed doors drawn with edges to signify a rigid sense of being trapped. Romantic Vision Of Suffering hints at a deeper emptiness behind smiles and tears. The piece drawn to go with this is misty and filled with stars. Beneath this is a mother sitting at a table watching over a daughter pointing to something in an opened book. Again this is an ambiguous piece that allows the reader to decide what it means. I could go on for a long time describing Alchemy Of Pain, but this is a collection you should wander through on your own to find what most speaks to you. -Dave Wolff

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