HEAVING EARTH – Darkness of God (2022)REVIEW

The myth of “them”, piety without social responsibility, and other fragments of Iron Age’d turgid declension used to draw sectarian fault lines between the learned helplessness of religious followership and true agency continues to sustain socio-economic compression unto extremism, that which haunts all walks of life with its shadowy insectoid doom. Even when the veil of religiosity ages out of its major societal efficacy the vast machine-learning of corporatism has ‘ready inserted its cooing preemptive necessity as early-stage rule over complacent, Christ-pronated nations. The argument persists in exponent year over year by various poll, scholarly inquest, and plainest observed opportunistic depravity that religion does more harm than good to humanity and here at the end of times humanity begins to agree in resounding majority. Death metal has always been the rightful, if not occasionally asinine, representative music for the psychic war against Christianity’s world-herding cull yet only select traditional acts still represent the bravery of such an accost as the art of punching up only becomes less and less desirable for corporate profit-driven pluralists attempting more than underground survival. Irreligious Prague, Czechia-borne death metal quartet Heaving Earth are yet steadfast in their dismantling strikes lain upon the errant tribalism of God-fearing legion as their long-awaited third full-length album hereby attests. ‘Darkness of God‘ is the bar disturbed, death metal risen in rung and clambering to newly frenetic highs by way of its eldest proverbial language resubmitted to an all-too permissive generation.

Formed in 2008 and for the sake of a long line of death metal specifically influenced by the overwhelming stature of the Ancient Ones, Heaving Earth originally featured members of lesser known tech-death band Intervalle Bizarre, the Swedish death metal influenced Brutally Deceased, and the guitarist from goregrind legends Ahumado Granujo on drums though none of those projects necessarily indicated what they’d come up with on their debut demo (‘Vision of the Vultures‘, 2008). Their machinations were easily read up front as ye olde post-’95 Morbid Angel‘s surrealistic rhythmic inspiration running rampant with enthusiasm on those first three songs, commanding the unperturbed standard of force set by early 90’s Deicide alongside of course the punishing aggression of Hate Eternal whom many forget had an enormous impact on both pure death metal and brutal death in the early 2000’s. At the time there were many similar bands one could’ve pointed to for fealty but early Diabolic, Exmortem, Chaos Inception, and such were the most common points of comparison beyond the previously mentioned trio. If the namedrops are becoming cramped here, man I could write a mile long list, welcome to the very congested era of late 2000’s MySpace and CD-r demo releases wherein reaching an audience with guerilla social media tactics was still as ‘relevant’ as my hotmail address. Eh, I digress…

The extra touch Heaving Earth always had up their sleeve in terms of standing out from the crowd in the early days was their well-rounding application of Immolation influenced rhythmic undulation in appreciation of their circa ‘Unholy Cult‘-era (and nearby) avant-intrigue which showed up prominently on their difficult to find debut full-length (‘Diabolic Prophecies‘, 2010), where we can look to songs like “The Shrine of Desolation” for direct examples of said evolutionary trait in hand. That first record wasn’t handled well by the Polish label that’d released it, hurting their ascent beyond underground die-hards who’d taken the time to dig for it. Beyond that point it’d seem these guys (or, I believe guitarist Tomáš Halama has long been the main songwriter) never had an easy time putting together an album since in terms of accommodating line-up changes. They’d fill the gap between albums with an infamous split with fantastic Australian death metal group Altars (‘Redemption Ablaze‘, 2012) and their second full-length album (‘Denouncing the Holy Throne‘, 2015). An underrated masterpiece of classic death metal inspiration taken to its own realm, that sophomore release still holds up in profound example of just how far the old ways can be pushed into distinctive yet readable forms, it’d also been reason enough to stay excited for the inevitable follow-up despite a fairly long wait and a general full re-staffing of the band since.

At that juncture we could stop talking about the various influences Heaving Earth were alchemically combining and now appreciate the spectacular realization of their original goal, what I’d consider a mastery of everything the prior decade of death metal had promised in terms of brutality and ultimately squandered on an obsession with (mostly) boring pseudo-technicality or accessible alt-metal applications with “-core” crimes committed year over year since. The eternally disturbing new-normative usurpation and/or slaughter of earnest death metal spiritus hadn’t necessarily gotten in their way, though, and instead the question of where to go next was, from my recollection circa 2017-ish, interrupted by the difficulty of putting together a stable live line-up with a drummer based in Czechia whom could handle their material properly on a consistent basis. The timeline from that point presents obvious enough hitches typical of any musical recording, not to mention the beyond the norm obstructions to industry during these last three years. As ‘Darkness of God‘ finally reaches us it comes with some honest surprise on my part and not only because it’d been a fairly long wait but in the sense that Heaving Earth is deeply transformed, perhaps drastically to some elder ears, into an exponential entity beyond the last that could’ve only been sourced from a long-divined point of paradigmatic consideration.

Though Ad Nauseam‘s Andrea Petucco is involved here in terms of the mixing/mastering and session work from inhuman Italian drummer Giulio Galati (Hideous Divinity, Nero Di Marte) brings an additionally moderne touch to the atmospheric values and performances which can be attributed for some of the new found flair found on ‘Darkness of God‘, it may very well be an awe-striking and unexpected experience to witness as the modern benchmark for death metal is arguably recalibrated by these feats. I’d not necessarily consider bits of ‘Cabinet‘-era Spawn of Possession and perhaps some appreciation for Ulcerate‘s fastidious and expressive chord shaping to be the general gist of where and what’d elevate Heaving Earth‘s sound and style beyond their own righteous ascension of purist death metal forms prior, it is nonetheless a great surprise and I am grateful for not having received something usual, plain or expected.

Though I’m not sure the band would appreciate being thought of as a modern or even technical death metal group, there’ll be little to prevent the existing fandom from dropping jaws on tables upon first listen here as the change is unavoidably drastic, especially if you’ve gone in expecting a bit of ‘Formulas Fatal to the Flesh‘ with some creeper ‘Unholy Cult‘ action only to get an experience which is akin to the best of ‘Stare Into Death and Be Still‘. Having spent enough time gawking at the differences between then-and-now in the interim review process I’ve found the conversation around transformation better reserved for light inquiry rather than musing, this sort of change ought to be embraced as far as I’m concerned and either way I am far more interested in praising ‘Darkness of God‘ for the high standard of work that it is and not at all what it isn’t.

The opening triumvirate, the holy trinity under ruthless accost, is the cinematic core of ‘Darkness of God‘ stated in three acts which begins with the scene setting tragedian yearn of opener “Violent Gospels (Ordination of the Holy Trinity)“. Heaving Earth waste no time in making their supreme, divergent statement with the intense lean of standout “Crossing the Great Divide (Prayer to a Crumbling Shrine)”, its ominous clean guitar movements flinging infernal, coldest knives of apathy at this early cresting moment on the full listen. The final weaving peak of this triptych arises within the swelling morass of “Apologetics (Of Failure and Fall)“, an (again) cinematically charged melodrama to stamp out the final third of these pieces which serve to introduce Heaving Earth anew. These three pieces should be well enough to convince most listeners to stick around and see where they go with this sound and theme alike but the guitar arrangements do not continue to present variations on this particular approach for the duration of the ~50 minute experience as they soldier on, instead touring a host of technique driven pieces (see: the neoclassic shred of “Forever Deceiving Gods”) which act to reinforce the compositional acumen desired in taking a step beyond ‘Denouncing the Holy Throne‘. It is an rightfully overwhelming, masterful statement which demands a hundred more listens up front.

There are a few pieces in the running order which I could pick apart and find the rhythmic map of Immolation‘s finest work inoculated and perturbed by the hand of Heaving Earth herein but this time around the main composer has elevated those abstractions into vibrant individuality, outdoing the present day realities of their idols in many respects with spirited and dynamic riff-events engaging the ear and the mind at every single turn, no stone is left unturned. “Cardinal Sin” is the standout in this sense, or, just in general as a notably progressive death-adjacent torsion makes waves within their rhythm section, wherein the bass guitar performances stand out as especially fine and unrestrained in their alignment with the rest of the instrumentation. An immediate pace yet wondrous sense of malaise and menace defines the expression of the piece because of this focus. The brutal tech-death runs and clattering bass punched rhythms of “The Lord’s Lamentations” should likewise impress with similar formation of phrase yet it’d stood out to me as something more in the wheelhouse of second guitarist Marty Meyer (Supreme Conception) to start, though the rhythmic venture taken within this song soon reveals itself as a texturally amorphous nightmare, riffing which transgresses straight forward brutal neoclassicism (see: Sarpanitum‘s debut) with mutant waves.

Folks whom might be missing the Mithras-esque nods found on the two previous albums won’t be alienated by this record overall, as we find plenty of that otherworldly nature inserted in good measure across the span of the full listen, yet “Flesh-Ridden Providence” is likely the most closely writ or related to their past associations. It is more than a hint of a ‘spaced and seeking’ thread which is better heard on successive listens. In fact we can zoom out from my blurry avoidance of the minutiae here a bit for the sake of suggesting that ‘Darkness of God‘ is an album that lends itself well to both instantaneous immersion and gradually revealed details which are all the more impressive when returned to with familiarity. The liquid motion of Heaving Earth‘s rhythms are immediately satisfying, even a bit familiar as the first few songs roll out and this’d been enough momentum for me to continue dredging through the details of each song and the apocalyptic scene they’d intend to set.

Though there is great value in parsing every nuance of these high-rate and oft transcendentally stated death metal pieces over the course of several listens, and I could assuredly ramble on in even more detail, yet the obvious statement to make at this point is that the symptoms for a great work began to stack up in mind in direct association with the amount of time I’d spent appreciating and analyzing this record. It is a rare breed of death metal band that sees the entire continuum and finds their own angle forward devoid of trend and any softening of extremism in hand, I’d argue that Heaving Earth belongs squarely in this category, not as plain abstractionists of death metal itself but in achieving a work which brings pure death metal context back into the lost realm of nowadays insincere and softened craft. This is a darkness deserving of death metal’s evocative tradition, one which reaps a reward we cannot get by living in the naïve bubble of the past but in embracing the horror of the future with eyes wide, frowns deep and ears bleeding. A highest possible recommendation.

Highest possible recommendation. (100/100)

Rating: 10 out of 10.
TITLE:Darkness of God
LABEL(S):Lavadome Productions
RELEASE DATE:May 27th, 2022

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