The uncertain future of the self-doubting, contained and irreconcilable soul without sounding board is left to refract back and forth along the continually dented face of damnation’s horizon looming. No longer conjoined and irrationally self-involved, the narrator cannot see or hear the vellum thin barrier to actualization ever melting away to certainty, that which would nullify dread in scene. The seats in witness have all been abandoned, in death they no longer sit and judge, and without faces to respond to the subject becomes listless and despondent, imprisoned without a feedback loop to whirl within. The third full-length from northwestern German black metal band Toadeater contemplates death and illness openly and without reassurance or guiding philosophy in hand, conveying panic and seeming endless anxietous shattering of the mind which all seems to channel into one place. A sense of place and placement becomes important within this yarn strewn, as if the turmoil expressed within ‘Bexadde‘ is left there in the neighborhood, the haunting of the individual in containment and burdensome self-examination left behind in that place. Daring to feel one’s morbidity, unleashing the checks and balances of the mind in awful confrontation of the self is admirable but only if the inevitable witness can read resolve and learn, rather than absorb thoughtlessly this cursedness.
Toadeater formed as a trio of hardcore punk-spirited folks circa 2018, the Osnabrück based fellowes quickly chipped away at matching their interest in blackened hardcore and post-black metal forms for their own sound. Their first tape (‘Demo‘, 2018) was a well-enough formed take on post-hardcore influenced black metal, a notion which would explode into something quite a bit more involved and evocative on their debut LP ‘Codex‘ (2019), it having been the main reason you’ll see comparisons to everything from Ancst to Hexis today. Though their first couple of recordings were roughly above average it was their second full-length (‘Bit to Ewigen Daogen‘, 2020) that’d found Toadeater landing on something a bit more universally enjoyed, a form of post-black metal often compared to Wiegedood and Mgła. Perhaps those comparisons are best resigned to bands which convey a dire, introspective mood with some talent for the dramatic and sometimes melodic statements available to modern black metal. If seeking precedence for the distraught, harried dark metal of ‘Bexadde‘ within their past works consider their second album a different mood and subject, voided of past expectations and served via a different state of mind entirely… but still a considerable plateau on the way forward.
A trip within the depressive, autumnal mind. — A couple of major notes on Toadeater‘s discography stood out to me before I’d approached ‘Bexadde‘ in full, the first being their penchant for guitar textures which veer into twanging telecaster-toned presence and/or the occasional boosted mids alongside various combinations of guitar effects. The second and perhaps more urgent thought is that this band intends to convey emotion as a core point of purpose, their entire fabric as a band seems to carry a directive of self-expression which is both earnest and absolutely melodramatic in witness. It read as somewhat typical but inspired work prior and on this third full-length it reads as a struggle for mental survival conveyed after the fact, or, if I could paraphrase the band’s own description a meeting of secured personal limitations from a chronically fatalistic mindset. Sorrowful, obsessed, and perhaps self-loathing thoughts which cannot seem to resolve despite constant elaboration and self-examination. To some this state of mind might read as jargon for depressive music description but aporia and uncertainty do a particularly fine job of conveying the mood of this record beyond what most would otherwise experience as existential dread at face value.
The difficult part of ingesting the experience ‘Bexadde‘ offers isn’t necessarily “getting” the mood and the subject matter exactly right in mind (this much is obvious, or should be) but rather the act of being confronted by it at all, especially with bargaining and empathy in hand as the spiraling runs loose, out of control. The chiming, soul-tugging guitar hooks which characterize opener “Asche” aren’t exactly pulled from ‘Brave Murder Day‘ but should provide a cold, ruinous depressive black metal feeling-lite up front as Toadeater blaze through these moments, peppering harrowing unrest and shrieking vocals within a few key refrains and telling a bit of a story as we ride along. Up front we can observe the production on this album has given much more attention to the rhythm section, emphasizing a more classic melodic black metal ideal even if the guitar work will read as Cascadian/post-black in its stature otherwise.
“Let the Darkness Swallow You” reads as a self-destructive monologue, an allowance to give up hope for the sake of respite and permission given to accept that disease will ultimately win. This is of course the darkest moment on the album lyrically if I’ve read it even remotely right, though I’m not sure it would’ve felt as severe as it does if the piece wasn’t ~twelve minutes long and dominated by repetitive, obsessive vocal lines. Consider it an open vein of thought, a nakedly dark moment which exposes the raw anxiety of a situation one cannot control. The statement made by the song appears all the more outsized and obtuse for the sheer real estate taken up by the song though Toadeater do a fine enough job of keeping these longer pieces interesting enough to generate momentum. The usual criticisms apply for this type of music on my part, needing something more substantial in terms of bass guitar tone and a more prevalent purpose for the extreme length of composition, involved progressions or otherwise.
Each of the four pieces on this record provide some reason to return though I think they’d made the least compelling case within the just fine “Lowest Servant”, wherein the rhythmic break beyond ~5:35 minutes in takes us to a sort of gothic rock/metal headspace for the last third of the song without statement. The sort of showpiece and grand finale of the record “Molten Gold (Down Your Throat)” doesn’t necessarily hold up to the par set by “Let the Darkness Swallow You” and this is the only real dent in the armor of the listening experience as repeated and immersed listening of ‘Bexadde‘ quickly reveals Side A, or, the first half as the most connective, memorable part. That said the closer does ultimately deliver a satisfying conclusion by way of the heaviest, most atmospherically rich piece on the album, reprising the goth metal/post-black guitar side of things for a considerable chunk in the middle of the song before a spirited reprise, soldiering out of the piece with some exciting fervor. As a full listen it is intensely repeatable, difficult to take pause within, and certainly delivers the best sound design available to Toadeater‘s discography.
With consideration for the whole package I’d say the cover artwork from Peruvian artist Rafael Pascuale Zamora is appropriately evocative, dark and lost in consideration just as ‘Bexadde‘ tends to be. Fans of ‘Bit to Ewigen Daogen‘ might potentially find this record surprisingly different than previous works and at the very least I’d emphasize that the performances and production values here do speak to something more professional, balanced in the way you’d want this unique ‘no fucks given’ approach to modern black metal expression to be. Unfortunately the only major point to make on my part is somewhat trite, that Toadeater have put together an album which is both devastating in its details yet a consuming pleasure to listen to on repeat. A moderately high recommendation.
|RELEASE DATE:||September 9th, 2022|
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