Here within the self-actualized dystopic future dark we’d heard so much about within the doomsday warning of 80’s British deathgrind and the prose of 1990’s Scandinavian extreme metal the treads of the boot stamping out humanity lock gloriously into an old imprint. Cracked at the nape of the neck and bleeding from its ears the old ways of melody and songcraft once spirited alive by structure, rather than damned by the colonnades of reference today, the bleak mass of futuristic homogeneous creation already pervades the senses and intensifies the effects of our chaotic anthropocene cessation. Outliers and referential mutations aside, the scantily (semi-) melodic music of today lacks purpose and the attention span necessary for a complete statement. Cutting through your own murky thoughts and overlooking my nostalgic bastard aura might be necessary for the uninitiated but for those already indoctrinated by the full spectrum of ’90-’98 death metal permutation here I present an ecstasy of death, morbid music that’d romance the calloused mind into euphoric resignation in the form of ‘Into the Blackness’, the debut EP from multi-national death metal band Darkened.
There are five obviate reasons, to start, to buy this debut blind and that’d be each member of Darkened‘s line-up which consists of fellows that warrant their own mention. First, it is good to see Demisery‘s Gord Olson fronting a death metal band as he’s split his efforts between black metal and technical death projects since 2011. Seeing Daryl Kahan keeping Citizens Arrest and Funebrarum alive while making time to play bass on this record only adds to his already impressive legacy. Kahan had actually played in Ordo Inferus with former members of Excruciate (and current Necrophobic) for a few years linking him with Darkened guitarist Hempa Brynolfsson. Even if you’re not familiar with those ‘modern day’ underground stand-outs you’ll surely recognize drummer Andrew Whale from Memoriam and every Bolt Thrower release from inception ’til 1994. The keystone of the project could be considered producer/guitarist Linus Nirbrant who is best known as a founding member of melodic black/death metal act A Canorous Quintet and the spin-offs after their initial demise. That’d be who pulled me in for the first few listens as I consider ‘Silence of the World Beyond’ one of the finest most piercing records to come out of Stockholm in the 90’s.
Is the only reason to buy this nepotism for an international ‘supergroup’? No, but it helps– From my perspective these are folks who have pretty damned tasteful discographies under their belts spanning several decades. It speaks to the quality of the recording and the experience driving it. Presumably written largely between the two guitarists and perhaps Whale there is a roughly 70/30 split between semi-melodic Swedish death metal (“The Offering”) and some nods towards early to mid-90’s Bolt Thrower (“Darkening of My Soul”) at a glance. The rhythm guitar tone is a rumbling, warmed-over beast somewhere between the self-parody of recent At the Gates and the more rounded tone of a record like Eucharist‘s ‘Mirrorworlds’; This sound is well tuned between the two major aspects of Darkened‘s semi-melodic and stomping mid-paced death oeuvre while avoiding anything too similar to past projects that were ideologically similar (Guidance of Sin, This Ending, etc.) although if you’re familiar with Ordo Inferus some of that vibe is fairly close in spirit.
The full listen is succinct, polished, immaculately arranged for effect, and a strong first impression for Darkened. Each of the three songs here have a subtle hook and a dive into melody that is never repetitive or a variation on a theme. “Unredeemed” more or less balances the brutal with the melodic and ends up with a sort of Graveyard (Spain) or pre-Century Media Deserted Fear sound. I’m not sure if it’d make more sense to praise the subtlety of the melody throughout most of the his EP, save the opener, or suggest they could go ‘all in’ on that side of it but it might be safe to assume the balance is the intentioned modus of the project to start. It works from either angle but stood out less on a conceptual level as I began to dig up semi-melodic death metal bands with heavy Bolt Thrower influence, the value comes with composition and performance. Highly recommended. For preview purposes the two most telling songs on this EP are the opener “The Offering” and the mid-piece “Darkening of the Soul” whereas the closer has elements of both without demanding as much of the listeners attention.
Dancing and flailing but, still dead. 4.0/5.0
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