Dunkelnacht: Empires Of Mediocracy (Non Serviam Records)
I was looking forward to this release ever since drummer Tegaarst contacted me a few months ago via social media. Dunkelnacht is a collaboration between French and Dutch but was initially a one-man project. When Heimdall was joined by bassist Alkhemohr in 2007 this changed, and the band morphed into a real blackened death metal band. With two albums and an EP already under their belts, Empires Of Mediocracy is the product of a settled line-up and it is an enormously impressive piece of work. With influences from across the black and death metal spectrum, the album is a rich tapestry of pummeling riffs, slicing guitar work and haunting atmospherics. The melodies are understated but undeniably present; hell, there’s even a gothic new wave feel to Eerie Horrendous Obsession. As well as various avantgarde sources, the band draw deeply from the pool of Scandinavian black metal and the Polish extreme scene. But there is no copycat performance here, with some unique and beguiling sounds which capture the listener’s attention.
They derive influences from Polish extreme metal, Scandinavian black metal, and even classical and various avantgarde sources. However, Dunkelnacht also introduce much of their own style; opener Relentless Compendium case in point with some curve ball time changes and shrieking brass as well as the more expected tremolo picking and drum battery. There is a satisfying wall of sound throughout, guttural throat scorching vocals spew forth from vocalist M.C. Abagor and some massive riffs emerge throughout this beast of a release. At times almost soaring black metal, at others dust chewing death metal, this is thoroughly enjoyable. With a content based on the concept of total supremacy, there is some thought provocation as well. The band are playing a select few dates in February in London, Bristol, Banbury and Swansea. It will certainly be my intention to get to one of them. You should too. 8/10
Incite: Built To Destroy (MinusHead Records)
I saw Incite many moons ago, unsurprisingly supporting Soulfly at the O2 Academy in Bristol. The band led by Richie Cavalera weren’t bad and warmed the sparsely populated venue up a treat. Suffice to say I don’t recall much else or following their career in any detail since. We’ve not covered any of their music here previously either. But here comes album number five, 37 minutes of rampaging crushing groove metal which hits hard, follows up harder and then kicks you once more. With the guest slots filled by original Cannibal Corpse vocalist Chris Barnes and Crowbar main man Kirk Windstein (just immense on Human Cancer), there is certainly some heft here in a relentless onslaught that just doesn’t stop. Writing this with a heavy chest infection, I was exhausted just from listening to the pulverising and unyielding assault that flies out of the speakers. Built To Destroy is an album that is designed to be anthemic, all air punching and moshing. With one ear thinking that this is better Devildriver, Incite should excite at Bloodstock this year. 7/10
Windswept: The Onlooker (Season Of Mist Underground Artists)
A tinkling music box, its worn motor driving out distorted strains of an old tune, crackles slowly into life. A sweet, child-like sound. Suddenly it is ripped to shreds as blistering blast beats and savage riffs vomit violently forth, enveloping all around with the high intensity battery of typical black metal at its fastest. This is Windswept, the outfit formed by Drudkh mastermind Roman Sayenko in cooperation with two of his fellow band members. The Onlooker is album number two from a band that refuses to give interviews, play live or provide pictures. Mysterious, sinister and maybe just a little fabricated? With a raw and authentic live feel to their sound, Windswept don’t stray far from their roots which means flat out breathless black metal with repetition and increased tempo the order of the day. The songs are dripping in atmospheric imagery, building rapidly and providing another creative outlet. Inspired by similar cold and harsh realities as debut album The Great Cold Steppe, crafted in a matter of days in the studio, this is Ukrainian black metal at its most raw. Ferocious stuff. 7/10
Continuum: Designed Obsolescence (Unique Leader Records) [Sean]
Tech bloody tech, a polarising beast. For some, its super widly and complex nature is the main draw, the be all and end all. For others? Super cookie cutter, devoid of passion and boring. For myself, I’ve got quite the soft spot for this often polarising genre, especially for those that can induce a transcendental experience via obscene fret dexterity. Lost Soul, Ulcerate, Anata and Irreversible Mechanism scratch that muso itch something fierce, especially when the order of the day calls for something more than Ross Bay Cult worship. But if there’s only technical flair for technical flairs sake, the whole thing comes across as vapid and devoid of any feeling whatsoever. Which brings us to Supergroup Continuum and their second release, Designed Obsolescence. Par Oloffson cover? Check. Science/technological lyrical themes? Check. Obviously signed to Unique Leader Double fucking check (RIP Erik Lindmark). With all bases covered, will Designed Obsolescence scratch that old itch? Or will Continuum themselves be rendered obsolete? Let’s have gander then, aye?
Theorem wastes no time and we’re greeted with all manner of staccato riffing, pentatonic patterns and blast beats. Tighter than a nun’s neither regions, as one would expect. The slower, more deliberate tempo allow the riffs some clarity, aided by a pristine production. Release From Flesh and Blood continues this, employing a more melodic approach before falling back to palm muting shenanigans. Title track, Designed Obsolescence really kick things into higher gear, haunting leads providing some much needed diversity and texture amongst the relentlessly shifting riff patterns. The introduction of synths is also very welcome, melody and technicality working together seamlessly, giving the dexterous fretwork some proper context and flow within the song. All Manner Of Decay is a measured beast, whose more focused structure makes the whole thing feel more meaningful.
Autonomic is a catchy number, showing more variation and displaying the more playful side of Continuum. Honestly, its far more enjoyable when Continuum cease their bullrush and allow for things to set in, even if its for the briefest of seconds. It makes those moments MATTER. Remnants Of Ascension is surprisingly monotonous which is odd, given that it’s only 2 minutes in length. Closer Repeating Actions is solid enough, but just comes off a touch contrived and a wee bit aimless. Look, this is not a bad album. The level of musicianship displayed here is undeniably high, no notes out of place and delivered by individuals who have mastered their respective craft. It’s tight, precise and very complex. I understand what is being played, appreciative of the level of skill taken to produce such a work. On a technical level and academic level, can’t fault it. BUT on a personal level? It’s…….ok? Because everything is set to 11, the lack any real slowdown or variation hinders Designed Obsolescence.
So much energy is being expended that it burns itself out, reducing what should be exciting and impactful into a bland riff salad. There’s no real trough but also no real highlight, it’s just……there. Unfocused, sprinting to the next section with not a lot tying it together (though that drummer is tight AF). Shame really, as the title track, Autonomic and All Manner Of Decay are fucking monsters. It feels like a greater intellect is guiding the more nuanced of the compositions, as opposed to a soulless automaton belching out endless strings of code. It burns me that I couldn’t enjoy this more, because Continuum can sure as shit play. Oh well, I guess it just isn’t for me. Bottom line? If all thing tech really (and I mean, really) simulate your basest desires, then give this a bash. 6/10