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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

EP Review: Darkentries - The Make Believe

If you've been paying attention to modern metal of late, you will have noticed that most bands not besotted with retro, are pushing their music forwards with varied attempts at blurring the lines between genres. Some, of course, are taking the concept to the extreme by fusing those lines into a vast wall of sound. South Carolina's Darkentries, contentedly sat on Kylesa's record label, are one of the latter and have drawn influence from such quarters as sludge, hardcore, doom and post-metal to create a blackened, nihilistic cacophony.

What stands out the most here is the production. Recorded with Kris Hilbert at the curiously-titled Legitimate Business Studio, with the mastering taking place over at Audiosiege, the overall impression is of a vital, raw mix loaded with enough echo to bring it back from the brink. Carefully layered within, the powerful, mud-flinging guitars take pride of place at the forefront, the drums sit in the middle distance, and the vocal is left to rant and rave from somewhere out back. It's an odd experience to discover that the gapping between the levels mean you can actually pick out the points where Hampton Dodd's vocals start phasing. Of course, it is exactly because the band don't utilise every inch of space that, inside the sections where instrument drop-outs occur, it all begins to feel slightly removed from the present. Whilst a shame that slight fault does leave them much room for experimentation - hopefully more so when they finally get round to issuing that full-length.

Digging down into the tracks, 'TV Fuzz' shifts from a gentile guitar introduction into pounding black doom. With the vocal lurching between one that pitches mournful shoegaze and another that seems ensconced in inflicting post-hardcore chaos, the effect is intense and shattering. Though 'Honey Eater' and the stunning 'Feedback Funeral' stay on the same path, they muscle up every element. The vocal sinks deeper to create a more resonant, more forbidding atmosphere and finds a red-raw animosity when it gets its 'core on. Even the sludge-packing guitars wind it all down until the buzzing begins to vibrate at the back of your brain. What stands out, is that somewhere amongst all the to-ing and fro-ing, you'll hear strong hints at the kind of ambient, miserabilist post-hardcore peddled by bands like The Elijah or Devil Sold His Soul.

Upping their game, 'I'm Tired Of Being Awake' finds joy in warping the attack; picking up the desert and blowing it back in our faces. In these mere three minutes they find room to echo the emotional, death-addled contortions of Ihsahn and even time to tap out some Mastodon-esque string progressions. '1200-S' is their chthonic monster, emerging from its abyss to rip out some suitably alien roars and illicit agonising screams form its prey. There are also vast open power chords, gutsy basslines and heart-pumping chugs to get on board with. Lyrically, you'll not find much to sink your teeth into with this EP, save perhaps for 'Feedback Funeral' and that repeating disembodied scream of "just bloody kill me" or in the wild-eyed chant of "paradise, paradise" awaiting in '1200-S'.

Understandably short, impossibly indulgent, strangely exhilarating. In a sense, this kind of carefully-constructed lunacy is exactly what we, as disciples of extreme metal, crave. It's music that breaks barriers, retaining an essence of ancient majesty but remaining unafraid to let things get a little ugly and a little twisted. Easy listening this is not, but then this is, in effect, Darkentries' crack at sonic catharsis. Their ball, their rules. The Make Believe represents their own honest attempt to define what modern heavy metal means to them. It will be very interesting to see what kind of unholy noises they can conjure up in the future.

Also online @ Scratch The Surface = http://www.scratchthesurface-webzine.com/2014/03/darkentries-make-believe-review.html
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