(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Germany’s Infesting Swarm.)
Some band names… they… just don’t really reflect their musical content. There you go. I said it.
As much as I love Rotting Christ, for example, it still occasionally strikes me as odd to hear that name in conjunction with the martial grandeur of their recent (and, I would argue, best) material. Similarly the name Septic Flesh doesn’t exactly line-up with the gothy symphonic pomp and circumstance that the band deal in exclusively these days (and, I would argue, wasn’t even a great fit for their early years).
Germany’s Infesting Swarm are another band whose name sits ever-so-slightly awkwardly with the sound of their music, with a moniker more suggestive of the blood-and-bile splattered aesthetic of a Brutal Death Metal band (or, at a push, a skittery Tech-Death band) than the gloom-shrouded Post Black Metal that they actually deal in.
Still, a wise man once wrote that “a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet”… so the real question, maybe the only important question, is – how good is the music?
Well I can tell you right now that Desolation Road is a damn good album, overflowing with a gleaming mixture of gorgeously bleak atmosphere and raging metallic catharsis. And while comparisons can certainly be drawn to their countrymen in both Agrypnie and Der Weg Einer Freiheit, the Paderborn quintet invest each and every note with such gloomy character and raw emotion that such concerns are rendered largely trivial as a result.
Now the term “Post Black Metal” tends, by and large, to conjure one of two different impressions to the expectant listener. At its best, this divisive sub-genre finds bands blending the majestic atmospheric brilliance of Post-Rock/Metal with the ferocious intensity and artistry of Black Metal to create a sound of vast power and scope. At its worst… it’s simply an excuse for bands in possession of more delay pedals than original ideas to incorporate a few generic blastbeats in a vain attempt to boost their underground credibility.
Infesting Swarm however are a little bit different, in that the seething blackened fury of their music is juxtaposed against a gloomy melancholy reminiscent of the earlier years of Katatonia.
Tracks like undeniably epic opener “Ending” and the majestically melancholy “Abandoned Life”, to pick just two such examples, have far more in common with Daylight Dies than they do Deafheaven, shaping and moulding their razorblade tremolo patterns and scalding blizzards of blasting snare alongside solemn, slow-burning riffs and rippling patterns of doomy melody.
The eleven-minute “Desperation” similarly exists at a nexus point between styles, where Black Metal at its most expansive and expressive meets the more progressive and melodic side of Doom, its multiple sweeping movements of seething, elemental rage dissolving into soothing moments of blissful calm and introspection before erupting once more in truly ferocious fashion.
Granted, Desolation Road certainly isn’t lacking in blackened bite, with songs such as “Year of No Light” and “Der Lauf Der Zeit” delivering all the torrential, tormented blastery and scything riffery you could ask for, but even then the band’s approach remains subtly, but undeniably, influenced by a grief-stricken sense of loss and serenity, culminating in the sombre grandeur and aching power of the album’s concluding title-track.
For all their undeniable potency and potential, there’s certainly still room for growth and development left for Infesting Swarm, however, particularly when it comes to achieving a closer, more seamless synthesis between their doomier, more melancholy side, and the grim, desolate ferocity of their Black Metal side.
The band are almost there, it’s true – so close in fact that you can almost taste it – but repeated listens do expose an occasional tendency to delineate the two aspects of their sound a little too cleanly and clearly.
This is particularly notable when you consider the hellaciously raw and vehement vocals which, whilst giving each and every track a sense of true grit and anguish, tend to stick a little too closely to the formula of using low growls for the doomier parts, and high snarls for the Black Metal parts, which slightly prevents them from fully integrating with one another as you become more familiar with the album’s patterns and repeating motifs.
Still, these are minor quibbles, of the sort that tend to work themselves out naturally over time as a band grows in both stature and experience, and ultimately Desolation Road does exactly what it needs to as a debut album – grabbing your attention and stamping down the band’s identity and authority whilst also leaving intriguing room for growth and development in the future.
I for one am definitely going to be keeping a close eye on these guys as they progress. And I urge you all to do the same.