(Andy Synn presents a killer collection of British Black Metal to tantalise/traumatise your ears)
As I may have mentioned a few times already, my experience of 2023 so far has been that the proggier side of the spectrum has been producing a lot of the most interesting and impressive albums of the year.
Sure, I know there’s been a lot of digital ink spilled about the health and fertility of the Death Metal scene as well but, to my ears at least, most of it has erred more towards just “good” rather than “great”, with a lot of the praise seemingly confusing “quantity” for “quality”.
But we also shouldn’t count out our more blackened brethren either, as there’s been a slow but steady drip-feed of absolutely fantastic Black Metal albums coming out over the last six-seven months too, and today’s edition of “The Best of British” features three more examples that could well throw some discord into your end of year lists come December time.
DECOHERENCE – ORDER
This is far from the first time we’ve written about Decoherence here at NCS – in fact I think we’ve covered most, if not all, of their output so far – but I don’t think we’ll ever get sick of the band’s signature brand of anti-cosmic cruelty, and fans of the likes of Blut Aus Nord, Borgne, and Dodecahedron would do well to give their new album a listen (if they haven’t already done so).
Immediately the oppressive opening bars of “Closed Timelike Curves” suggest that this might just be the heaviest, darkest Decoherence album yet, with the song’s ominous industrial overtones adding an ambient aura of doom-laden dissonance to its spiteful tremolo riffs and sinister pseudo-melodies.
Similarly, the destructive dissonance and barely-controlled chaos of “An Unconfined System” combine to produce a sound as dense and cold as a neutron star, with the slow, pulsating energy of the track’s second half really doubling-down on those Dodecahedron comparisons, while “With No Pre-Existing Direction” augments its blistering intensity and brooding grooves with an undercurrent of menacing melody and post-apocalyptic atmosphere that penetrates and permeates ever second of the song.
“The Future Behind Them” leans a little more towards the industrial-influenced side of the band’s repertoire – shades of classic Mysticum swirling around every doomy, churning riff and hypnotic harmonic – while still finding room for explosive bursts of punishing, pitch-black ferocity, after which the visceral warp-storm fury of “Quintessence Field” (whose moody, minimalist ambience during the bridge only serves to make the rest of the track seem even harsher by comparison) once more gives off some major Quintessence-esque vibes.
The album concludes with doomy synthscapes, writhing riffs, and chilling anti-melodies of “Degenerate Ground States”, all of which accretes and amalgamates over seven-and-a-half monstrous minutes until it reaches a truly colossal conclusion, leaving you with the impression that Decoherence have, somehow, surpassed all their previous efforts with Order and deserve to be a name that every Black Metal fan should know by heart, if they don’t already.
DEITUS – IRREVERSIBLE
Of the three albums featured here I’d say that Irreversible is the most “traditional”, in a lot of ways, although that doesn’t prevent it from bending the rules and blurring the lines a little along the way.
That doesn’t mean that the “classic” blackened belligerence of tracks like “Straight For Your Throat” (whose eight-and-a-half minutes practically fly by in a blaze of searing tremolo riffs and spitfire soloing) and the hellishly hooky “A Scar for Serenity” isn’t also well worth the price of admission – the latter in particular provides a fantastic showcase for the band’s thrashier side, replete with echoes of Bathory, Sodom, and Aura Noir, all of which are given a significant boost in power by the album’s bigger, more modern sound – but it’s definitely the second half of the record which hides the biggest surprises (and, arguably, shows the most promise).
The increasing emphasis on glorious guitar harmonies and shamelessly epic Heavy Metal moments during the title-track, for example, suggests that Deitus could easily shift their sound – without sacrificing their identity or their fanbase – in an even catchier and more melodic direction if they so chose, while the slower tempo and more intricately interwoven leads and hooks (including some sublimely sombre backing vocals) of “As Long As They Fear” (which I become more and more convinced is the best song on the album every time I listen to it) strikes a similarly grim ‘n’ gloomy vein to classic Secrets of the Moon.
This latter similarity is even more apparent – in the best possible way – during the bleak, blackened pseudo-doomery of “Voyeur”, where (in what is a bold, and potentially divisive, choice) the captivating clean vocals of Toni Coe-Brooker take centre-stage for the majority of the track, further expanding the band’s creative palette in a way that – potentially – opens up new avenues for growth and evolution in their future.
Sure, if there’s one criticism I could make it’s that these last two tracks in particular suggest that Deitus haven’t gone quite far enough on Irreversible, but considering this album seems to set the band up for even bigger, better things going forwards I can’t be too mad at them just because they haven’t quite reached their full potential yet!
THE SUN’S JOURNEY THROUGH THE NIGHT – WORLDLESS
As has been well-documented by now, I’m always suspicious when a band suddenly starts to receive a lot of hype – I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve watched a band blow up, seemingly out of nowhere, on the back of minimal (often mediocre) material, only to discover they’ve got famous parents, or friends who work “in the industry”, or something of that sort.
But when it comes to prolific Black Metal project The Sun’s Journey Through The Night – who’ve just released their fourth album in as many years (although one of those was a purely ambient affair, just to be entirely clear) – it feels as though the hype was thoroughly justified.
Drawing from the same sort of well as other “dark ambient”-infused Black Metal artists like Almyrkvi, Leviathan, and The Negative Bias, the group – primarily the creative output of a singular nameless, faceless individual who goes by the moniker “No One” – seamlessly and sinuously fuse strafing blastbeats and strangling tremolo lines with passages of eerie, unsettling ambience and moments of massive, downtuned riffage in a manner that serves to bring out the best in all of these different elements.
Opener “Abolishing Consciousness”, for example, hits all the harder when it kicks in due to the band’s commitment to moody minimalism during the track’s desolate, drawn-out introduction, while the trance-like mid-section of the title-track provides a pitch-perfect (and pitch-black) transitory passage between the song’s blast-fuelled beginning and its even darker, doomier denouement.
It helps, of course, that the mind (or minds, plural) behind Worldless have a keen grasp of shape and structure, which helps imbue each of these tracks – from the haunting negative space of “Grief, The Star” and the brooding malevolence of “Flood of Flames” (whose clever juxtaposition of metallic excess and atmospheric emptiness might just make it my favourite song on the album) to the cathartic climax of captivating closer “Orion” – with their own sense of identity and momentum, not to mention some impressively sharp and spiteful hooks, such that the whole is, ultimately, that much greater than the mere sum of its parts.