(In this post DGR combines reviews of three recently released albums, by The Howling Void, thenighttimeproject, and Embrace the Darkness.)
As of this writing there’s a pretty hot chance that we’ve already run the little collection of grind groups that I’ve been blasting the last few months [yes, we did]. Truth be told, I’ve actually been working on these two collections side by side, but as the best plans are often wrecked at the last minute, this one began as one review, only to be expanded out to three as I kept finding new stuff that needed to be archived.
All three of the acts here are of the slower and melancholy sort, the type that we use as the amplifier of moods for the grey skies that may be outside, and in this case we’ll be committing absolute heresy because two of the three are pretty much entirely clean sung — hell, one is more depressive rock, but that’ll explain itself as soon as you read who is involved, with the third being a more traditional melodoom band who are getting their feet off the ground. The first clean-sung one, I actually didn’t expect to be that way because of the precedent set by the previous releases, and the other one I did, but as a fan of the musicians involved I felt it had to be shared out there.
Let’s begin with one that might have bred some familiarity amongst our readers, as we last touched bases with the project in December of 2013!
THE HOWLING VOID
The Howling Void is a one-man project run by a musician named Ryan based out of San Antonio, Texas. He’s actually part of a pretty wide swath of projects ranging from sheer noise, to black metal, to this — which could be considered his doom project. The Howling Void has the tempo of a funeral doom band, but I would be more prone to refer to it as a meditative doom band, as previous releases like Nightfall and Runa were constructed of huge and slow-moving songs combined with humongous choirs, so that there were no up-front vocals, just parts of a massive whole. The most recent Howling Void release, aptly titled The Triumph Of Ruin, changes that formula a bit.
Triumph Of Ruin continues The Howling Void’s expertise in making lush soundscapes. The previous albums were these huge valleys of sound where you could imagine rivers running through them and the wildlife surrounding, vibrant as could be. The music was cold and distant, as The Howling Void’s trademark was enormous, glacially paced songs, with choirs of voices holding the whole thing together; so mostly, any images conjured would be happening during the winter.
Triumph Of Ruin, on the other hand, feels more like a folk disc, and not only that, also a much more intimate album than before. The Howling Void still uses its choir of voices, but on top of that you have one singer, slowly letting out verses. The album makes The Howling Void feel more like a personal project: Instead of us sitting on a rocky outcropping overlooking that vast valley, we instead are gathered around a fire in the forest where one person armed with a guitar is sharing songs.
That said: Triumph Or Ruin still shares a lot of DNA with its forebears; so as long as you’re perpared for the shift up-front, the listening experience is enjoyable. There are probably still more words in this summary than there are lyrical passages on the disc, for anyone worried that The Howling Void might have lost that slow, he-who-strides-the-earth lyrical pacing. This isn’t the type of album to sit around and feel pensive to, but instead one you can zone out with. Its a very calming experience. Even as it describes cold and desolate landscapes, it still manages the feat of finding beauty in all that emptiness. It just takes a different and shorter path there.
Thenighttimeproject are a band with an interesting lineage to say the least. The group shares its name with a song from the October Tide release A Thin Shell. It was founded by ex-Katatonia, current-October Tide member Fredrik Norrman and features former October Tide/current In Mourning vocalist Tobias Netzell alongside drummer Nicklas Hjertton. It is also the one project that is the most different from the other two bands featured here, as it is decidedly not metal and lies more within the realm of minimalistic and melancholic rock.
The group’s self-titled came out in January and it has quickly become one of my favorite things to listen to — because even though the band don’t use the usual slate of weapons to bring the listener down, Thenighttimeproject is still a moody as hell listen.
Many of the songs on Thenighttimeproject are as bare as can get — some minor drumming, a softly strummed guitar, and a very frail-sounding Tobias singing some hefty melodic hooks. Despite this, there are a few times on this release where you do get a reminder that, “Oh yeah, Fredrik was a part of Katatonia for a long time”. “Caustic Reflection”, the third song on this release, is my main example. It’s a dark listen that could easily be described as dangerously infectious (it has become my personal obsession on this disc), and in the last minute, when the distorted guitar kicks in and the band have one of the few moments where they get legitimately “heavy”, it is like seeing an alternate reality where Fredrik never left the aforementioned group’s lineup.
Other songs, like “Among Reptiles”, “Desert Prayers”, and “Oneiros”, have a much thinner wire to talk — because these are the songs without an overwhelming amount of instrumentation. It means each note, each hit on the drums, each backing keyboard line just has that much more emphasis placed on it. This places a huge amount of spotlight on the vocals, and considering that Tobias has spent the lion’s share of his recorded output so far with a monstrous death growl (In Mourning, October Tide, his killer appearance on the recent Necrosavant release), he manages to take the ball and run with it.
Like The Howling Void release I reviewed above, Thenighttimeproject is a more pensive and meditative release than an outright depressing one. It may deal in dark moods and misery, but the band still have a knowledge of melodic vocal lines and guitar hooks that will have a listener singing along with lines like, “Our bodies will dissolve” without even questioning what they’re saying. Thenighttimeproject is a tapestry expertly woven of moodiness and smokey atmosphere and it is a must-listen if you need to add to your grey skies and rain soundtrack.
EMBRACE THE DARKNESS
Embrace The Darkness are a new melodic doom/death metal band hailing from the Czech Republic and are just starting get their feet on the ground. The group formed in 2012 but their first release, an EP titled The Nameless, just came out on Feb 20th, 2016. It is clear from listening to the band that they have a deep love for the melo-doom scene, so it wasn’t too shocking to browse the Bandcamp page for The Nameless and see that the group cited influences like In Mourning and Insomnium (amongst a few others). The band make it clear that they’re trying something a little different, as they have a dedicated violin player in their ranks.
The violin is a very expressive instrument — as are many of the instruments from that branch of the string family — and can often be used as a second vocal line, a melodic line, the driver of the song. You can see where the addition is obvious, and groups like Ne Obliviscaris and the French now-instrumental group Psygnosis both perform with a violinist and a cellist in their lineups, respectively.
As Embrace The Darkness’ first release, The Nameless shows some massive potential for the band. They’ve got the melo-doom sound down pat, and the first few songs were pretty much comfort food for a fan like myself. The five songs present go by quickly, even though they cover a pretty wide swath of lengths, and the closing song “Suffered Life” starts out immensely heavy in comparison to more atmospheric tracks like “Falling Snow” and “Victim Of Myself”. The thudding rhythm and shocks of string-work give way to a pretty hefty death metal chug about a minute in.
If there is one qualm I have right now, it seems like the violin is mixed in a little loud in comparison to the rest of the band. It fits in well musically, but seems to dominate the group once it makes its appearance in each song. The band, in turn, get a little louder as well, but only to a point, and it sort of drowns out the atmosphere the group are building.
Still, as a first act, Embrace The Darkness have a solid grasp on their music and The Nameless is a pretty good demonstration of where the band can go from here. They do a good job intertwining their classical elemants with their melancholic sound and traditional death metal instrumentation.