(We present Austin Weber’s review of the new album by the Dutch band Dodecahedron, recently released by Season of Mist.)
Back in 2012, Tilburg, Netherlands natives Dodecahedron came out of nowhere and dropped a rightly revered self-titled album, one that was far ahead of the curve for black metal at the time as well. When you release a black metal album as forward-thinking and nightmare-inducing as Dodecahedron, where exactly does one go from there?
It’s a bit of a long answer since the band write such complex and dynamic songs, but basically the music they’ve come up with on Kwintessens hits even darker while frequently dropping into lighter and oddly calming flourishes as well. A lot of new elements are at play here, and it’s also a slightly trimmer effort at 41 minutes versus their self-titled album, which was 52 minutes long. Simultaneously more deranged, yet also littered with a stronger prog influence and an influx of heavy grooves to their arsenal, the album also includes some grind-gone-technical black metal moments that caught me off guard too.
Most of the songs here are so labyrinthine in structure that, for once, I’m actually glad to have interlude-type reprieves woven in to break the album up and let it breathe. The first of those is the opener, “Prelude”, which starts off calmly but slowly builds to a fever pitch of droning terror, heightening the tension and unease for what’s to follow.
And what follows when the second track “Tetrahedron – The Culling Of The Unwanted From The Earth” kicks in is a blast into batshit-insane territory. This is probably my favorite song on the record. It’s an adrenaline-packed rush that cycles through a ridiculous number of ideas in rapid succession. After that, “Hexahedron – Tilling The Human Soil” leans into a plethora of massive grooves and world-smashing heaviness with a pestilential aim amidst the chaotic rampaging crossfire of the song’s speedier passages.
The second reprieve promptly arrives with “Interlude”, a sparse and fairly groove-oriented number. That feeds into the disturbing malevolence that is “Octahedron – Harbinger”, though the song does take a lengthy break about a third of the way through and gets spacey and atmospheric, a trait that’s also more prevalent through the songs on Kwintessens than it was on their prior album. The following cut, “Dodecahedron – An Ill-Advised Air Of Otherness”, is yet another left-field curveball in a sea of songs that in different ways all fit that description.
Of all the songs on the album, “Dodecahedron – An Ill-Defined Air Of Otherness” is the one in which the band focus most heavily on utilizing their prog, atmospheric-tinged, and groove-heavy elements to create something that sounds quite different from the rest of the songs on Kwintessens. In doing so, the song approaches a lighter feeling for most of its runtime, and as others have said, the latter portions of the song actually do sound sort of like Strapping Young Lad (and it induces a headbanging frenzy in me every time).
Next up is “Finale”, but it’s not actually the end track. Instead, it’s another interlude of sorts, horrific and ghastly as it may be, like a lonely soul’s wounded cries from within the flames of hell.
All madness must end at some point, and end it finally does on “Icosahedron – The Death Of Your Body”, an exercise in lunacy that spasms and scars with a murky atmosphere of hate and unease. This track utilizes repetition like a goddamn sonic sledgehammer, immersing the listener in sour sonic waves with each loop back to the same crawling horror. Then once it’s four minutes in, and you’re convinced that’s all this song will be, an almost tribal drum beat rises up, and elastic guitar and bass work swirl to the forefront, throbbing and spiralling into the end of all things.
While a bit long and repetitive for my taste, given the complexity of the songwriting on the other non-interlude songs, “Icosahedron” is still a fitting closing number to an album that’s already such a clusterfuck to unpack that. ultimately, it probably does benefit from having a track that’s more subdued and less frantic as its closer.
Kwintessens is the worthy follow-up and logical successor to Dodecahedron’s past material. I’d even go as far as calling this a modern black metal masterpiece, it’s that damn good. Whenever I spin this record I feel like it turns my brain inside out, leaving me in a dual state of enthrallment and bewilderment.
Kwintessens on Bandcamp:
Dodecahedron on Facebook: