Apathy Noir – Black Soil (2018) REVIEW

Formerly known as Apathy, the project was forced to rename around 2016 due to legal issues with ownership of the name, Apathy Noir have been producing melodic death/doom for nearly two decades. Their sound initially took cues from bands like October Tide, Opeth and to a lesser degree Amorphis. In fact I wasn’t initially impressed with the band until I’d heard the Dawn style tremolo riffing on the more intense parts of ‘Beneath the Ashen Sky’ alongside Amorphis ‘Elegy’-esque death metal vocals. That second full-length gave me that first loveable hint of Apathy Noir’s melodic personality. Their 2013 album was a bit of a sea-change in it’s slightly more aggressive death/black metal style and I really enjoyed Philip Grüning‘s death metal vocals, monotonous as they were. Yet the return of Apathy’s original vocalist Mattias Wetterhall brought an even more refined, professional edge to ‘Across Dark Waters’. Along with him came a return to the band’s original gloomier progressive metal-tinged sound. Because Wetterhall’s range is more expressive, their 2016 album felt much more like Anathema‘s gloomy majesty rubbing up against Opeth‘s Century Media heyday.

‘Black Soil’ is simultaneously an extension of the band’s return to their original vision and a nudge towards some atmospheric black metal moments, faint as they are. The album hones in on memorable lead guitar melodies that are key to that old school melodic death/doom sound. Before ‘Black Soil’ I felt like Jonas’ leads couldn’t stand toe-to-toe with bands like October Tide or Rapture, but on ‘Black Soil’ he has gotten there for the most part. Certainly leagues ahead of Daylight Dies and Swallow the Sun in terms of vision and memorability at the very least.

“Samsara” is perhaps the best example of this increasingly focused vision. A simple guitar melody that evokes a yearning late-Fall sourness that refrains into acoustic guitars and pan flute only to rise and fall in and out of full instrumentation as the song builds to it’s conclusion. The clean-sung vocals throughout are far more tasteful than on previous Apathy Noir efforts and the harsh vocals are the main reason I even mention black metal in terms of style here. That song, combined with the title track represent the strongest peak on ‘Black Soil’ where the rhythm guitar occasionally leans into classic Rotting Christ and Rapture to great effect. The second peak for me is “Towers of Silence” a song that most definitely kills their idols in terms of out-doing their more obvious influences. It rolls weightlessly into the heavy first half of the bitter closing track “Time and Tide”, another huge melodic moment for the album.

Through a couple weeks of listening to this record I found myself re-listening to countless melodic death/doom records that I’d idolized for years in search of why ‘Black Soil’ had me feeling equally nostalgic and original in it’s overall gloom. Though that research only lead me to admire the atmosphere of the record in that it wasn’t merely an exploration of a distinct style of depressive melodic extreme metal, but also an equally valuable meditation on the style. It is nostalgic but more importantly it carries highly effective despondent tones and progressive, memorable melody throughout. I am happy to have discovered this projects just as it seems to be hitting a new high point in quality and conception.

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Artist Apathy Noir
Type Album
Released January 31, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!  Follow Apathy Noir on Facebook
Genres
Melodic Death Doom, Atmospheric Black Metal

Our great works collapsing. 4.0/5.0

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