Belgian death metallers Emptiness return with Nothing but the Whole which combines death/black metal intensity with the brooding ambiance of dark ambient similar to Desiderii Marginis. The result creates a dark, visceral experience.
The album exudes a deeply haunting and nightmarish feel which the band expands with its knowledge and application of melodic development. Songs unfurl in a rise-and-fall approach to intensity showing us different levels of thought and mood which develop and eventually conclude in melancholic unity.
Like similar experiment Lykathea Aflame Elvenefris, Nothing but the Whole occasionally struggles with direction which can cause a distracted and confused outcome which translates into meandering filler. There are also some unappealing “rock” riffs that do not fit well with the context of the songs.
Emptiness have attempted to add their own creative spark to the death/black metal world and have produced a decent creation albeit one that needs more focus and direction. Like many experimental albums, Nothing but the Whole is best described as a stimulating listen that will inspire others to expand upon its aesthetic ideas.
When too many utterly mindless and pandering bands pile up in the review queue, even life seems washed out and hopeless. At that point, even death metal has lost its power and mystique. When that happens, I throw on Demilich Nespithe and my faith in the genre is restored. This album presents such a creative and yet meaningful interpretation of death metal that it restores faith in a lot more than the genre.
The 20th Adversary of Emptiness reproduces a restored Nespithe complete with original art, adds two songs from the 2006 return of Demilich, and then compiles the demos of this formative band. Svart Records prints these on vinyl and CD formats, with the vinyl option as a box set and the CD for more everyday listening (that way you can have a copy in the car, too). Naturally this adds three areas for study.
The original album remains as powerful as it was back in the 1990s. If any remastering has occurred, it has been slight because the originally subterranean and organic sound has been preserved. There is not much to say about this classic that wasn’t said in the original 1993 review, but for a short introduction, it is a death metal album that uses lead riffing and complex riff-rhythm interaction and development to create an entirely otherworldly sound. Into this it drops doubt, loneliness, and a sense of restoration through imagination. It is from the oldest school of artistry and a work of intensely fine-tuned thinking and musicianship.
Much will be made of the newer tracks. I see these as an attempt to take the classic Demilich sound into the more technical and streamlined death metal of the early 2000s. In fact, two these songs — “of Vanishing” and “of Emptiness” — were written in the early 1990s, while “Faces Right Below the Skin of the Earth” was the only one penned in 2006. The three tracks hold true to the Demilich format but give it more aggression and death metal thrills. “Faces Right Below the Skin of the Earth” starts with a rhythm tear that resembles something Covenant-era Morbid Angel and first album At the Gates might envision if they collaborated, but then drops into a cyclic riff that follows the old Demilich pattern. In developing that riff, the band put it into the more rhythmically challenging format that contemporary metal listeners might desire, but then begin their trademark cyclic polyrhythm while mutating the riff toward a larger pattern. Eventually this becomes the concluding theme and the song drives hard to a conclusion. “of Vanishing” uses a Morbid Angel trope, namely “Immortal Rites,” but gives it the more complex rhythmic and melodic vision of Demilich. This then filters through a full stop and drum roll into Demilich-styled cyclic melodic riffing before returning to theme. Interesting guitar solo on this one. “of Emptiness” uses a throttling melodic riff more like the stuff that Necrovore used to apply, and builds into the most conventional song in this three-track set. It slides into an almost Black Sabbath-styled doomy charging riff and alternates it with lead-picked riffs used to change tempo and add depth, but then returns to its aggressive attack. This track uses a lot of stops and starts and loses some momentum. On the whole, these three tracks show an interesting attempt to modernize Demilich and make it more aggressive, but also show why the band probably did not want to continue going in that direction. Sometimes the past is too distinct to be resurrected as anything but itself, and not everyone may want to do that two decades later.
On to the demos… these are fascinating because they show how deliberate the final Demilich sound really is. These songs are familiar but each has different changes. In particular, different styles of lead guitar were tried as well as attempts to make the riffs fit more into the rhythm styles favored by different subgenres of death metal. The closer demos get to Nespithe chronologically the more they exhibit an intense technicality and unique style, but as one goes back in time they are closer to standard death metal with some unique innovations woven in. As time passes, the weaving becomes more intense and the new style takes over the raw elements. It is fascinating to watch these songs develop and the demo pressing here is entirely worth the price of this album (or even box set). They do not bore and there is always something new to be heard in each of these classic demo tracks.
20th Adversary of Emptiness offers something to just about anyone. If this is your first Demilich experience, stick to the first disk (Nespithe) for a glimpse into classic death metal when it wasn’t afraid to be weird. For dyed-in-the-wool Demilich fans and hardcores, there’s hours of interest to be found in tracking back these older demo pieces and seeing where they go. Both groups will enjoy the three 2006-era tracks which show a more violent and streamlined Demilich. Ultimately, this whole package lives up to its strange title because it is an adversary of emptiness.
This music evokes loneliness and a hollow, achingly empty universe without inherent point, and shows the creation of a mythos within that void that could keep us focused on survival and improvement even through a long and depleting arctic circle winter. Seeing these rare tracks ride again is rewarding as is seeing Nespithe get the credit that it has always deserved but almost missed as people chased death metal trends back in the day. The booklet, featuring both classic art and pictures, comes with a length interview with guitarist Antti Boman and his commentary on each song with lyrics. This is rare and wonderful also. Just make sure you avoid reading the introduction, which is written by some idiot and makes no sense.
Every age has its conventions that set a target for those who aspire to success. When they achieve a fulfillment of those conventions, the aspirants have entered the elite and expect great reward to follow.
In our time, “progressive” rock has returned with a vengeance in the metal/hardcore world. It takes two types; the avant-garde type cycles between radically different riffs in an attempt to open the mind through contrast, while the jazz-type builds on a jam and then breaks it up with contrasting riffs to keep the jam going without becoming circular. De Profundis is of this second type.
What comes to mind when hearing this record is that Cynic and Atheist put their second and third albums into a room and nine months later, out popped De Profundis. This band mixes metal riffs of several different types with a cocktail jazz ambiance and plenty of delicious lead guitar, but builds up tension and release much like a hard rock band from the late 1980s.
The result is very easy to listen to. The jazz format is the most efficient for musicians, as it doesn’t require creation of custom song structures like other prog does, and it absorbs basically anything you can throw at it. De Profundis throw everything in there, from Satriani-esque quick pentatonic runs to dark minor key improvisation, and the result will enthrall people who like a high degree of internal contrast in their layered music.
Like dub or a really free-form jazz jam, De Profundis songs revolve around a central conflict that encounters interruptions which lead back to the theme. It’s the interruptions that are the main course, ironically enough, because these allow extended rhythm leads and leads that showcase the playing skills here.
It’s a slight to this band to call them “metal,” because it’s clearly only one of several dozen ingredients, but a wide diversity of metal riffing can be spotted here, from Swedish melodic to early black metal. All of this fits into a funky, warm, jazzy exterior that fulfills the expectations of its age’s elites.
There has been a lot of interest surrounding the Hoffman brothers after their departure from Deicide. After some time under the radar, they reformed Amon with Jechael on bass and vocals to once again make death metal. Amon’s album, Liar in Wait, sounds like a mixture of old and later era Deicide with a different vocalist. Judging by how Deicide has pretty much rendered themselves irrelevant after the Hoffman’s departure, the potential for good death metal is in the Amon camp more than the Nu-Deicide camp. Below is an interview with Jechael, the bassist and vocalist of Amon.
Martyrdoom Productions, run by Dead Congregation frontman A.V., reissued Infester‘s long out of print classic To the Depths, In Degradation on CD and vinyl LP earlier this year. I purchased a copy of the CD version myself to review for our readers benefit. The record was never originally released on vinyl and being over fifty minutes long, the LP reissue will have compromised sound quality due to narrower groove spacing and all the limitations of the vinyl format such as the compression of the cutting lathe, high and low pass filtering, and mono bass.
The first official Demilich patches ever made are now available. Do you want to stick an official Demilich patch on your bag or battle jacket? Then buy them directly from the band and not some Greek, German, or South American bootlegger.
Experimental underground metal band Pale Existence has re-issued its 1994 demo cassette “Dark Sanctuary” in digital form. This allows a new generation to hear the music that borrowed from doom metal, early black metal, melodic death metal and abrasive deathgrind to create a vision of desolation and emptiness that mirrored the downfall of Western Civilization.
Mgła provides us with a perfect example to round a trio of examples that together shape the main misunderstandings as to what black metal is through their misrepresentation of it in either carelessness or ignorance. While modernWatain plays a completely undefined mixture of incoherent tropes around a stomping heavy rock that never condenses into anything original, and modernBehemoth is a shock rock outfit with sterile tekdeaf (modern technical “death metal”) techniques, Mgła is the one that closest comes to black metal by its purposely limited form closely resembling it. However, at best it could be said that they are a musically poor black metal band devoid of the traditional character that fuels the adversarial music, and at worst it could be classified as a post metal band experimenting with close variations on a very simple theme.