EMBRACE OF THORNS – Entropy Dynamics (2022)REVIEW

You are the misshapen truth of individuation, the falsely tangible evidentiary climax of reality and the only pinging organism capable of confirming self-awareness whenever actualization becomes a clogged drain of obscurant details. Surrounded by the hackneyed survivorship of detestable opportunistic beasts the apex adaptive human mind cannot resist its inquisitive mimicry as the sensorial delirium found within communion on a grand scale becomes a drug of self-destruction, draining inspiration, and dissolving realism into disordered post-modernist bore. The outlier in defiance naturally processes the glut of human garbage in neat stacks of energetic stores, categorizing apart from the self for the sake of it all burning at a steady rate, as long as it all burns. The great error of the man-apart lies in the inability to disrupt when resigned to the fringes by their own self-righteous categorization, soon hit with the reality that chaos and disorder are not controlled or contained by the rank-and-file but merely chucked in the open graves of the uncounted, self-assigned fringes. Truly wild combustion comes from irrational gatherings, disordered pockets which burst and recede in unpredictable waves but always transgress, even from within the locust horde. Take it as less of a plan to infiltrate populism and more as a basis of appreciation for the adaptive capabilities of individuals within smaller sects of interest, admiration for those never playing to the will-sapping gentrification of the crowd. Few black/death metal bands today craft bodies of work with a point of view as malleable yet recognizably theirs as Athens, Greece-based crew Embrace of Thorns, who’ve once again tuned and turned away from normative sub-genre admixture in fostering their own disturbing black-channeled current of death worship. ‘Entropy Dynamics‘ reads as an album crafted and considered entirely on the artists’ own terms, a sparking of many inspired ideas which step away from (yet also within) various black/death metal traditions. The search for something more, for the truth of the haunted yet enlightened organism is alight here in the twisted, contemplative darkness of album number six.

Formed in the late 90’s and readied with fervor in the late 2000’s Embrace of Thorns persists as a toxic bestial black-death potion without vessel, an amorphous concoction which had formed as atmospheric inspiration from the mind of Archfiend DevilPig (Serpent Noir, Necrovorous) and guitarist Herald of Demonic Pestilence (War Possession) both of whom have been bold in their explorations of both death-leaning and primally sourced black metal releases over the years. I’d covered and commented on the general lineage back when I reviewed the previous album (‘Scorn Aesthetics‘, 2018) eventually placing it at #9 on my best of the year list. I’d been a fan since 2011 when ‘Praying For Absolution‘ released and they’d impressed me with increasing returns from each release beyond that point, album number five having veered into a sort of ‘epic’ Greek black metal sound that’d truly highlighted my year with inspiration. We’d eventually find the band elaborating on the core idea on a follow-up 7″ EP (‘The Pantheon I‘, 2022) earlier this year after some interstitial live, compilation and demo/rehearsal (‘A Night of Promethean Blasphemy‘, 2022) releases that appeared to be divining the way forward. Some of their bestial aspect returns with prominence at that point, a hateful surge to say the least and one which persists on certain sections of ‘Entropy Dynamics‘, but the core appeal of the band remains consistently centered around their station as one of the finer examples of border-voiding black/death metal with riffs, always thrilling rhythm guitar treatment that holds up well to listens which soon become countless.

The ancient mind is brightest, its taste for the noumenon least devolved by crowding. — Existing fandom might already understand this virtue of Embrace of Thorns‘ output but perhaps not on this plane, wherein ancient thrashing death metal and the roots of speed metalpunk provide an imposing spine to initially build this brilliantly riff-oriented experience from. Of course these are the universal roots of bestial black/death metal but we are not served “war” metal on ‘Entropy Dynamics‘ so much as blackened death metal capable of timeless expression performed with a haunting yet turn-on-a-dime rhythmic narrative. “Entropy Dynamics/Nucleus Dissolved” embodies these advanced applications of arcane principles in practicum, wherein various 90’s death metal abstractions fling themselves body first across the marbled abyss and nearly catch wind of a d-beat somewhere in the middle before blustering ascension is achieved in the final third. This is a starting point and perhaps a tirade after somewhat more sophisticated opener “Blackest Orthodoxy Perpetuated” has given the room its blackened sheen, a glint of melodic black/death metal’s earliest death-spawned obsidian harass with similarly punkish transitional points setting the tone. There is such an imposing amount of detail put into these first two presentations, an oily and dank realm full of electrical charges firing off, that it makes good sense that the album already needs to take an instrumental break (“The Arrow of Time”) though I think this will begin to chip away at the momentum built for the eager-eared listener.

The broad strokes and damning, detail rich striking beyond the introductory riffs on “The Breath of the Beast” further reveal the rhythmic dynamism Embrace of Thorns have developed beyond ‘Scorn Aesthetics‘, still providing the same sense of austere spectacle on a much larger scale, as evidenced by how the piece builds up toward its fifth minute. Each piece up to this point has bent itself into serpentine curvature, eluding any too typical sub-genre tropes but leaving some clear enough watermarks as to their interest in both black and death metal but I believe “I Wish You Burn in an Endless Funeral Pyre” finally spells out loud the convergences fueling the quickly growing melodic interest of the full listen, ending Side A with a complete thought in a rhythmic language extracted throughout the first half of the record. “Scythes Reaping Conscience” offers both the natural continuation of this thread while sustaining said apex, offering big rhythmic hooks shaped around an almost dissonant and grinding piece into a brilliant mid-album point of memorability and surely enough reason to wheel back to Side B repeatedly.

Their chaotic design will unfurl into majesty as it burns. — As we press into the caldera of Side B Embrace of Thorns paints with a black-soaked brush, developing sombre nigh Mgła-esque tonality on the way to the grand finale of “Vulture’s Ritual Dance” and ultimately lending a more introspective timbre to the final half of the full listen. The issue on my end at this point becomes a matter of wanting to avoid a track-by-track mention fest while still hitting upon all of the key moments on the album, since each piece bears its own notable riff or some aspect which bears mention. With this in mind, I could understand why the full listen might fly over the tired or unwilling mind at the outset, since it is so packed with inspiration and the running order involves several moments of pause and passage amidst a broad swipe of the black/death continuum. It might seem absurd to suggest ‘Entropy Dynamics‘ is a fine enough thread of ideas and interjections of various influences that it threatens to drone past but, any concerted effort to follow along with an analytical ear will reveal a complexly lain work willing to absorb and abstract new shapes, new sounds along the way as they morph all of it into a singular blackened death metal behemoth rather than a set of keen references stacked neatly in rows.

Entropy Dynamics‘ ends up being a lot to take in at once, both a grower and a good value proposition in terms of long-term listening yet a fluidic enough experience that it never manages to become predictable or stifled by overactive patternation. It’d be too awkward to suggest there is an ease to such entrenched, battled-out warrior’s music but it would be fair to suggest that Embrace of Thorns have done a fine job of keeping their standards high, their record well-repeatable and sounding sharp, with their rhythmic concoctions ever on the razor’s edge positing what else they might do that challenges all rather than satisfies those who are simply filling space with participatory emulation. Consider this sixth record a most potent dose of their poisoning — If the listener can at least begin to appreciate their combined treatment of both black and death metal philosophies in recognition of this knotted, gnarled defiance by way of a readably voiced work then no doubt the rest of their discography will begin to flood into mind with similar sensation and meaning. It is both a gateway and a stride deeper into the untamed psyche of their entity and yes, one of the best records of the year for my taste. Highest possible recommendation.

Highest recommendation. (100/100)

Rating: 10 out of 10.
TITLE:Entropy Dynamics
LABEL(S):Nuclear Winter Records
RELEASE DATE:October 10th, 2022

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