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Because it combines the talents of a pair of proven Norwegian black metal hotshots -- Borknagar's Øystein G. Brun and Vintersong's Andreas Hedlund (here pseudo-named Mr. V) -- one is naturally inclined to approach the Cronian project with some measure of predisposed respect and respectful expectation. But as Cronian's misshapen 2006 debut, Terra, gradually unfolds, it will likely dawn upon the listener that here is one of those desperately eclectic but hopelessly jumbled avant-garde metal albums that ruin the credibility party for everyone! Explicitly inspired by the panoramic feel of movie soundtracks, Terra's extreme metal foundation (shrieks, guitars, and programmed blastbeats) is constantly interspersed with and interrupted by well-meaning but invariably forced detours into orchestrated string ensembles, massed synthesizers (God only knows what fast-bubbling techno devilry is at work underneath the intro to "The Alp"), and -- most damning of all -- inept clean vocals which, though common within this medium, sound embarrassingly tuneless throughout many compositions, including Cronian's eponymous track. The album's all-encompassing concept of a post-apocalyptic frozen earth ("Terra" meaning "Earth" in Portuguese) is also not realized to satisfaction -- no thanks to lyrics that often blend amateur psychology with cold and snow-capped imagery (e.g., man's climb toward adulthood shaped into the aforementioned "The Alp") and song titles that simply sound silly ("Arctic Fever," "Iceolated," anyone?) instead of impressive. Given all this, it's not surprising to discover that Terra, in typical side-project form, was recorded sporadically and as its principals' free time allowed over the span of two years, further contributing to its convoluted assemblage. On the other hand, all of the negatives above don't mean that there's nothing of value on Terra, since this pretentious mess of an album inevitably offers several momentary glimpses of genius, and at least one truly cohesive success story in standout track "Illumine" -- at last! In sum, eclecticism, in any form of popular music, should be commended, but Cronian's everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach utterly outweighs their good reason.

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