The borders are crashed apart, the mind believes it is running free yet parameters of language hold us fast in place. — Much of the popular history of industrial music influenced extreme metal deals in interpretive treatments of percussive language for the sake of the readable stylized riff, with minimalism serving trite results. From that point on the main challenge becomes making up for the loss of organic abstraction of forms. This key disconnect appeared in the late eighties as a problem which both death metal and black metal at their respective pre-commercialization peak relevancies could not resolve, it was clear that until their traditional heavy metal aspects of meter and narrative had reached a point of exhaustion and/or derided trope the result would always be too literal or underbaked. Industrial extreme metal is, in this sense, an untidy frayed end and a lost opportunity for fans of each separate yet seeming limitless reality. This bounty of extremes has been too-often served surface level thought and application by electronic music artists, and despite the available palette and presence representing elements the truly avant-garde artiste would naturally thrive in earnest grasp of. There must be a happy medium achieved before steps taken turn to leaps and for leaps to begin crossing bounds and… in this sense New York-based electro-industrial avant-black/death metal duo Luminous Vault attempt their first leap with this debut full-length. ‘Animate the Emptiness‘ finds these credible witnesses to both realms unbent in their abstraction of electronic music’s adaptive futurism and the contortions of modern avant-garde black and death metal, ’til the pieces fit or bust.
A long history of failure yet sustains as archetypal personae, tonality, and atmosphere of industrial metal, there’ll be no escaping precedence set by the genius of auld — As we’d find with some of the most prime early examples of industrial death metal, such as Bleed‘s ‘Womb‘, the compromise is twofold wherein the vocal expression is lost from the early impetus of Godflesh‘s post-industrial metal records like ‘Slavestate‘ (or, Pitchshifter‘s nowadays forgotten classic ‘Industrial‘) and the turn-on-dime movement of early 90’s death metal is lost to the drum machine’s inability to transition with any real fluidity. The public at large, whom could afford to be fickle in the glut of then just as we can now, had lost interest beyond a host of 1993-spawned last gasp records from groups like Meathook Seed (among -many- others) after the career-making ‘Soul of a New Machine‘, arguably the most adept translation of Broderick‘s rhythmic innovations to the organische dementia of death metal, provided strongest precedence for groove metal’s ‘easier’ commercial applications to the next half-decade of aggro-industrial/alternative metal spectrum’s above ground ethos. Death metal arguably hit a dead end as unsalable body modification-lite for industrial metal long ago yet we can find a lot of those old notions, triangulated movements and revelatory rhythmic chops within the syncopation of avant-garde electronic music artist Mario Diaz de León (Oneirogen, Bloodmist) [Noted for our purposes as: MDdL] and extreme metal contortionist Samuel Smith (Aeviterne, Artificial Brain) as they attempt the fabled beastly-electro format which so many have tried and failed at beyond ~1995. Was it always a matter of the right minds meeting rather than attempting an aggressive world collision, or, is it a matter of everyone speaking both languages?
Industrial black metal applications have a much more sporadic history, much of them being mislabeled due to general drum machine use early on, as the elaborate phrasing of black metal rhythm guitar traditions and (eventual) heavy focus upon keyboard/synthesizer applications don’t lead us anywhere near our actual subject of analysis ’til we start to examine the ambitions of Blut Aus Nord, specifically the well-loved monstrosity ‘The Work Which Transforms God‘ and its transhumanistic meld appearing mid-experience (see: “The Howling of God”) an ambition when removed from black metal’s most dissonant period of growth manifested as the underappreciated Yerûšelem. From that point we have to look to modernist post-black metal and the divergent possibilities imposed by way of avant-garde black metal artists in the United States within the last two decades to find any real application of where Luminous Vault are coming from, so… eh… I’d instead change the subject to where this is all going to lead no matter what: We will ultimately look to popular music precedence, such as the phenomenon of Author & Punisher, and that’ll nonetheless lead us back to, well, Godflesh. The major question in my mind as we dig back toward the surface still, having very well glanced over a huge number of important releases here, is whether or not Justin Broadrick will always have the first (and last) word on industrial metal applications? As a lifelong fan “Yes, I think so“, but despite this second not-so-damning set of inconclusive half-truths on our path, ‘Animate the Emptiness‘ yet manages to be something I’ve not heard before, an strong sense of self and/or atmospheric juxtaposition that isn’t entirely borrowed from a (too) obvious mind palace.
Formed in 2015 between MDdL and (I believe) a former member of Castevet, the idea behind Luminous Vault was clear yet figurative in its language as their first EP (‘Communion‘, 2015) appeared to be divining its emotive possibilities between the cold industrial death metal of “Deliver the Wound” and the melodic death/doom flavored verses of “Flesh of the Daemon”. That second piece had been an interesting highlight from my perspective, almost Katatonia-esque but unfittingly so, I’d appreciated that it wasn’t so dryly abrasive as moderne extreme industrial doom acts like Khost tend to be. We will find some latent shades of this idea on ‘Animate the Emptiness‘ as we reach for pieces like “Ancient North” but the sensibilities of the guitar work have since shifted as the project progressed, assumedly adding Smith for their follow-up 12″ EP (‘Charismata‘, 2017) wherein shades of doom (described in pace similar to 90’s Greek black metal) still persisted on certain pieces but lent themselves to a more machined rhythmic station, creating yearning grooves which yet translate to the uber-‘Hymns‘ sensation of “Divine Transduction” on the full-length. At this point it is worth noting that the general working relationship seems to be MDdL on guitar, vocals, and most of the beats with Smith on bass guitar, hi-hats (?) and vocals as well which in some ways befits the tone of Luminous Vault as an inversion of expected roles but also an integration, or, collaborative construction which makes its best sense in motion with consideration for the woven (again) syncopated and rarely straying nature of ‘Animate the Emptiness‘.
It is unfortunate yet necessary that questions of style and various histories of alchemic combination (metal + electronic music) end up dominating the conversation but this is for the sake of this unsteady craft having amounted to something listenable herein, the main suggestion on my part being that ‘Animate the Emptiness‘ is neither surface level pandering to either side of the spectrum and… doesn’t suck shit as a listening experience even if you’re just a metal-minded guitar obsessed asshole dabbling in black metal’s various mutations. There are enough ideas here to satiate on repeat listen, to formulate a representative style and position the band for further exploration. Opener “Invoke Radiant Gleam” does all it can to offer the best of both worlds, knowing the attention span is low and the demographic weary, and as such it goes to a sort of black metallic ‘Selfless‘-esque progression (see also: “Earth Daemon”) for the leading salvo, its tumbling beats and ethereal post-black chord wrangling setting the tone with memorable body-rocking movement. If nothing else we’re treated to a neon-sunlit barrage of lucid industrial metal to start, especially considering the sharp-toothed “Incarnate Flame Arise” channeling the menace of circa ‘Pretty Hate Machine‘ industrial rock with a raw black metal guitar progression (but not sound) fizzling around, its abrasive qualities denied for the sake of tension sustained.
The first few songs that kick off Side A do a fine job of setting the mood, exploring the landscape, and lighting the path of progression which eases into what I’d consider post-black metal elements slowly and to a just light enough degree. Each piece offers a tuneful and dramatic aggro-metal aspect with a variety of beats suiting the tonal drive of the album as a whole. From my point of view we do not land upon truly impressive electro-textural buildering enough to suit the effects slapped guitar’s wash n’ warbling ’til the aforementioned “Divine Transduction” and from there the album has made its major statement and need only repeat itself once or twice more. The album-making statement that bridges the ‘meat’ of the listening experience being the post-black guitar wringing ease of “Redemption”, a key bit of personage felt in the guitar work here which shows a love for freeing guitar noise and sentimental tonality alike. From a certain point of view “Earth Daemon” is the quasi death metal heaviness promised and at least half-delivered, but more importantly it shows that these folks have a wealth of ideas to fit into this modus and all of them seem to land without feeling trite or light on development.
In circling ’round to the first major point, extreme metal had to come down to Earth and escape the hand-built generations of heavy metal tradition completely to ever work with the machine-built plasticity and plunder of electronic music and though this means the post-metal, post-black, post-everything music crowd will be the best fit for Luminous Vault‘s sound at face value there is yet a gloriously transhumanistic quality to this particular fusion achieved that is unique and sonically glorified enough to appeal to a broad audience of curio and avant-extreme listener. Or, I dunno, some of the songs sound influenced by Godflesh a bit, are brilliantly memorable and that’d been good enough for me after numerous listens. A moderately high recommendation.
|TITLE:||Animate the Emptiness|
|LABEL(S):||Profound Lore Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||May 20th, 2022|
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