UADA – Djinn Review

It has been a very long time since a piece of music has left me completely speechless. On their third record, UADA return to make what is not only likely to be album of the year, but potentially one of the most important records that the genre has ever been graced.

Across six songs, at just over an hour in length, the band have evolved their formula and expanded their musical horizons to include influences from all over the metal spectrum, and Djinn is all the better for it. It’s easy to see the comparisons to bands such as Mgla and Dissection in UADA’s history, and whilst that is an unfair and not entirely accurate depiction of their influences, it is overt to see that the band have far transcended their inspirations and ascended passed their aspirations totally.

UADA – Djinn (Title Track)

Djinn is a much brighter release as opposed to the duology that preceded it. Not only in the production, in which this is hands down the most well recorded and most grandiose sounding music to date, but in the song writing across the board too. Melody is the key phrase that spills out of every pinhole on this release. So many of the guitar riffs on offer here, courtesy of virtuosos Jack Superchi and Jake Sloan, are as haunting as they are gorgeously moving, in a way rarely heard in the genre.

The percussion on display largely takes a back seat with genre-staple blast beats put on the back burner in favour of a more straightforward, and climatic, mix of rock patterns, double kicks and crash/ride sequences. In the same vein, the vocals are less prominent on the record than they were on the previous instalment, though they are no less haunting, just not the main focus to building an oppressive and aggressive nature any longer.

Passionate screaming leads take centre stage across monolithic triumphs of audio, known on the record as the 13-minute epics No Place Here and, the life-affirming closing track, Between Two Worlds. The compositions throughout this hour-long experience simply defy reality and challenge the listener in more ways than one. One minute there are beautiful chorus passages, as found in abundance on The Great Mirage (particularly towards the end), and the next, haunting and pounding fierce six-string black metal brutality as demonstrated in every second of Forestless, passed a stellar dark-ambient intro.

UADA – No Place Here (One of the singles dropped before release)

When comparing Djinn to prior efforts, Devoid of Light and Cult of a Dying Sun, the changes in musical direction are night and day, but in a positive way. If UADA’s first release represents darkness as hopelessness and fear creeps in, and their sophomore effort resembles desperation and desperately clawing into that goodnight, then Djinn embodies a shred of hopefulness and optimism that pierces through the shades of blackened veil.

In other words, instrumentally this album is ever so slightly softer and less intense when compared to what came before, but I believe that this more melodic change was ultimately for the better, as the band were able to completely outshine their contemporaries and carve out a new niche to create something far more impactful, striking and important than I ever believed could come out of black metal in the modern day.

The similarities found between light and dark. A comparison of covers from UADA’s prior two albums.

In some ways the development of UADA parallels that of other American black metal bands such as Ghost Bath. The Dakota-based blackgazers started as straight forward DSBM on Funeral and then went beyond genre conventions with their darker follow up, Moonlover, much like how Cult of a Dying Sun evolved from the grimness of Devoid of Light. Ghost Bath’s third release Starmourner progressed their sound into the ethereal and the melodic in the best move they could have made at the time. So too do UADA realise their full potential on album no. 3 and it is a complete and total masterpiece in every single way. 2020 has been redeemed with the release of Djinn and I feel so fortunate to exist in a time where I can bear witness to incredible music by such talented minds.

Deadspace – The Grand Disillusionment Review

One of Austrilia’s most prolific depressive black metal bands delivers their darkest hour.

Right away I want to clarify that Deadspace’s latest record has the potential to be album of the year material. Without hyberbole, their new album is easily in my opinion one of the most exciting black metal records, not only of the year but also of the last few.

In only a handful of years, with the band merely forming in 2014, Deadspace have managed to put out a steady amount of stellar records from their seminal debut, The Promise of Oblivion up until the almighty Dirge record, released earlier this very year. It’s hard to say exactly what sets the band’s newest audio assault head and shoulders above not only their back catalog but the extensive competiton also, but in my opinion, it all comes down to the simple fact that Deadspace with The Grand Disillusionment just do atmospheric and depressive black metal so much better than their contempories.

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It’s hard not to be instantly floored by the ever incredible vocal performances of Chris Gebauer from the beginning as opening track ‘Inhale the Slime’ wastes little time in getting right to the razer’s edge as the aura of agony prevails. This is hardly Chris’ first time behind the mic, and his experience in other depressive black metal ventures such as Cancer and Veils of Fog have really worked well to hone his unique and distinctive voice as well as provide the confidence to use his extensive vocal range of high shrieks, wailing screams and even low growls to perfection.

The guitars are incredibly slick and ice cold from start to finish. Thomas Major turns in perhaps his most inspired riffs and melodies on the record and the atmospheric elements work and somber tone are very effective in getting the misanthrophic misery across in a way that amply compliments the pained vocals, occassional piano sections and reverb heavy drums beautifully.

In typical DSBM fashion, the album does not rely too heavily on blast beats and blistering speeds and the pacing of the record tends to favour submerging the listener in a thick layer of suffocating atmosphere that refuses to let go. It’s in everything from the songwriting to the production heard overall. This means that whilst you aren’t going to hear the most technical and exciting percussion on display here, what you will hear is a very smartly utilised drum kit from Herb Bennetts, proving in this case that simple and effective drum beats that work as a song writing tool first and foremost was definitely the way forward in writing this record.

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The Grand Disillusionment clearly has a lot to say and its the band’s most fierce record for exactly how far the lyrical representation goes. Nothing is written as high art, It’s a far cry from the poetry employed by certain bands in the genre, but much like the cover art, the not-so subtle and in your face approach works to cut through the bullshit and get straight to the point, in this case being that when they are going down, they are sure as fuck taking us all with them.

For an album so recently released, It’s stayed with me in a way that many metal records in recent years from much more well known and established bands have struggled to do so. It’s haunting and thought provoking in its premise and execution. In summary, The Grand Disillusionment does everything so well and is such a satisying listen in a genre that is, admittedly, flooded by a lot of poorer efforts. If Deadspace aren’t on your radar now then they certainly should be. If you’re a fan of Leviathan, Thy Light or even just extreme music in general, then this album truly will rock your world.

Deadspace on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deadspaceaus

Abandoned by Light – And Here I Stand Betwixt Light and Dark Review

Karhmul of Abandoned by Light concludes his trilogy of albums (starting with the atmosphere dark ambient album As Witness to Passing Aeons, and then followed up with the raw Melancholia).

And Here I Stand Betwixt Light and Dark is the most polished, focused and sinister of the Abandoned by Light catalogue and expertly showcases many of Karhmul’s unique strengths; long songs with ear worm riffs that never outstay their welcome, masterfully accompanied by his piercing, sharp vocal delivery.

The goal of Betwixt was to combine the atmospheric efforts of Aeons with the rawness of Melancholia and this has resulted in an expert blend of the two distinctive sides to his style. It is particularly commendable when focusing on the instrumental opener ‘Caressed by the Dying Embers’ and how it’s beautifully stark and depressing ambience sets up the brutally aggressive Trepidation that immediately follows.

There is a lot more that is concise and focused on this album, it truly appears that Karhmul has really begun to master and craft that ‘Melancholic’ black metal sound that has since become a stronger staple of the project since prior albums from the year prior.

There are many highlights in an album like this that is quite lengthy; the title track itself continues to rage through at a blistering pace one minute with blast beats blaring over screaming guitar riffs, only find its groove at different speeds too. There’s a real sense of progression, weight and atmosphere to all of the songs on the album, and despite their run time, none ever outstay their welcome. Two examples of which include;

The single from the album, Journey Through the Everlasting Kingdom of Bone especially highlights these elements as the song chaotically weaves in and out; flickering between old school black metal brutality, to slower crushing riffs and dancing between long, emotional and atmospheric ambient pieces. Truly is something to marvel at.

Summoning Annihilation from Inferno’s Maw is essentially the opposite; and demonstrates the diversity of tone, stylistic choice and levels of aggression on display. The song revels in atmospheric, drenched in layered tremolo picked riffs; leaning a lot more on the rawness of the prior album and all the better for it in contrast.

The two cover songs I believe will be polarising depending on the kind of black metal people enjoy. Myrkur and Ghost Bath are very controversial figures in the genre at the moment and I commend the guts and bravery of Karhmul for wholeheartedly embracing two songs he loves and crafting his own spin on them. The Golden Number cover was especially moving; with Karhmul’s take on Nameless’ shoe-gaze style wailing being adapted in a powerful and haunting way.

Personally I didn’t really care much for the Myrkur cover as I am not a fan of the source material but I can definitely appreciate the level of depth and care that went into it. I hope that others listening can get a lot more of it than I did.

Production wise; this is Karhmul’s best yet. The drum work throughout is ever present and never drowns out the guitar work on display. The vocal range is impressive in itself, as is the way in which such emotion is bled from the listener on every word. Tonally strong lyrically and instrumentally from the first chord played, to the last that closes out the release.

In summary; Karhmul etches in stone another powerful, haunting and atmospheric release that rounds out a promising trilogy in a way that will leave very few people disappointed. It was a bold move and a hell of a risk and undertaking, but having the proof in front of me like this, there are few words as fitting for this dark, twisted masterpiece of an album.