Shackled within an ornately dug subterranean abyss far beneath the light and the living rests the detested ‘lucifer’ of their world. A thousand mile pit of detestation in gut and an eternity of electric rage in mind makes creature of the dethroned. Their vengeance is the very bile to liquefy the self unto freedom, churning with a now perpetual and eternal hunger to abate the light and starve all life to glorious death. Captivity would rot the burning stomach of the celestial to the point of such rawness that a deity, a daimon, would arrive positing a plan and a price for the freedom that revenge might bring. The great sacrifice made, and the wretched end beyond, strive to embellish and adorn a high-concept debut from what is perhaps the most compelling ‘new old school’ death metal band out of Poland today, seeping from the minds of Gdańsk based Dreadnought. ‘The Light Shalt be Ungiven’ is itself a cleverly woven tragedy in the auld sense of the word, a parable and legend writ in the hand of nihilistic decadence and accompanied by an hour long death metal album that’d venture a mind-easing blend of classic death metal and post-music. To sit and allow them to deliver what is nothing short of greatness is to enrich the ‘self’ with long overdue abstraction and rearrange the fractured curse of duality into the many shades of a greater graying future.
‘The Light Shalt Be Ungiven’ is not only a fine concept album and an admirably high-quality debut for a death metal band of their ilk but a ‘true canon’ introduction to the world of death metal after releasing a demo in 2015 and an EP in 2016, which they deemed ‘sloppy’ in hindsight. I particularly liked ‘The Day of Extermination’ EP though it was admittedly yet formed in terms of rhythm and lead guitar work. The style there was influenced by their shared love of Bolt Thrower and perhaps groups like Chapel of Disease. Since then they’ve swapped in the drummer from thrash metal band Repulsor (Michał Bława) and a much more competent second guitarist (Maciej Lenartowicz) and their rhythmic capabilities had quadrupled overnight. They’re still playing a style heavily influenced by early Scandinavian and British death metal but their variation often bleeds into the realm of earlier Execration and Morbus Chron. They’re not completely lost in space though, and the first half of this record sounds a bit more like Gorefest‘s ‘Mindloss’ before it begins to toy with atmospherics and an Obliteration-esque stature. I often associate this style of death metal with Cadaver‘s ‘…In Pains’ but there are scores of German and Swedish death metal records that’ve toyed with similar ideas over the years with varying degrees of success. Much of the nuance and adventurous rhythm guitar work I’ve mentioned won’t be all that apparent as the album introduces itself but by the time you’re halfway through “Essence of Duality” it becomes clear you’re not listening to a run-of-the-mill death metal record.
The ethereal but still weirdly 90’s “Eos” interlude really does signal a third and final act where Dreadnought absolutely burst from their shell into their full range on the two part “Necromantica”. On repeat listens I found myself struggling to not just skip right to this point of the album because it is so redeeming when it hits but, all the more exciting after the first half of the record builds towards it with strong, slightly twisted, old school death metal. The title track is the big apex of the record at 9+ minutes and it builds towards this slickly jangling post-death metal ‘rock’ moment that places it among the most memorable on pieces on the album. At this point it does become pertinent to suggest that Dreadnought haven’t aimed at a brutal throng of brain-damaging riffs so much as an atmospheric experience that still resembles the classic style of death metal in the first half of the 90’s. They’ve done a fine job of it and should be commended as such, again impressing with the professional sheen of the experience and packaging despite being self-financed. The only bump in the road is incredibly minor and admittedly meant to serve the narrative more than the listening experience as “Epitaph of Evil” feels extraneous as a six minute instrumental outro right after the already very redeeming title track offers the final peak of the listen. Again, a minor issue where some brevity might have made the listen slightly more accessible.
‘The Light Shalt Be Ungiven’ is exactly the sort of mid-to-high tier ‘new old school’ death metal record that’d fit comfortably on the FDA Records or Pulverized Records line-up where the old school is fully honored but pushed to a new point of interest and personality that is a strong first point of signature for Dreadnought. This Gdańsk death metal quartet should be proud of this first strike for what a seriously conceived and admirably adventurous effort it is. Highly recommended, as a professional and entertaining death metal debut. For preview I’d say start right at the crux of differentiation with “Guardian of the Ancient Ice” and then straight into the glory of “Necromantica” parts I and II.
The oblivion of the individual. 4.25/5.0
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