Darkspace: Dark Space III I

When black metal bands speak of coldness, they usually refer to unforgiving Scandinavian winters, constructing them as both majestic, icy kingdoms and as permafrost hells. Immortal set their infamous videos in Arctic environments and branded themselves as “Blizzard Beasts”, while the guitar tones of influential second-wave bands like Darkthrone and Satyricon resembled the winds of harsh winter storms; Imperial Crystalline Entombment took this obsession to its most absurd extreme, cloaking themselves entirely in white and envisioning a new Ice Age with their sole album Apocalyptic End in White.

Swiss trio Darkspace are concerned with a different coldness, though—specifically, the void and expansive unknown of the universe. Since their first (and only) demo in 2002, Dark Space -I, they’ve created and nurtured a style of black metal heavily indebted to dark ambient, both in the punishing drone of their riffs and in the minimal, chasmic soundscapes. Darkspace—comprised of Wroth and Zhaaral on guitars and vocals, and Zorgh on bass and vocals—apply corpsepaint to their faces like fellow traditionalists, but their appearance is slick and menacing, as if H.R. Giger was their creative consultant. They’re a futuristic black metal group that’s interested in the heavens, but not necessarily divinity. Dark Space III I is their latest album six years after Dark Space III, and the new record represents an apt continuation of their signature style, cementing them as one of the most daring and underrated names in black metal.

III I is divided into three long chunks, leading off with the 27-minute-plus behemoth “Dark 4.18”. Glitchy spurts crack the veneer of the Lustmord-like drone, resembling space debris whizzing by. Pulsating drums enter just before a distant lead pattern, and then the real punishment, the oppressive, almost speedcore-like rhythms, set in. The drum machine gives “Dark 4.18” a mechanical blast that almost borders on EBM, which connects the dots between black metal and electronic music, genres that embrace repetition as a means to an end. “Dark 4.18” is not dance music, mind you—the blasting is relentless, with guitars howling in pain to the stars above. No band captures cosmic indifference better.

One of Darkspace’s strengths is that they incorporate familiar metal elements and, through their galactic lens, render them foreign. They can’t help but be influenced by the mid-paced mastery of fellow Swiss resident and current Triptykon/ex-Celtic Frost frontman Tom G. Warrior, which is plenty evident on “Dark 4.19”. The main riff is a groove held hostage, almost too catchy for its own good; it almost threatens the concentration that III I demands of the listener. There’s tapping solos far removed from instructional video wankery, trailing towards parts unknown—rare flickers of light, with no flash. Wroth is also the man behind Paysage d’Hiver (where he records under “Wintherr”), a project that focuses exclusively on the frostbitten side of black metal; here, he mutates one form of coldness into another, seamlessly. 

“Dark 4.20” finds Darkspace taking a meaner turn in their disorientation. The groove riffs sound choppier, and the blasting only grows more cacophonic as the song progresses. There are faint screams and growls throughout, which highlight Darkspace’s tendency to de-emphasize vocals on III I. All three members are screaming into space, but that’s a lot of area to cover, and that helplessness is essential to Darkspace’s vision. At full speed, the guitars create a choral effect that’s louder and more capable of communicating a sense of terror than any human voice could. It all ends with another low-rumbling hum, the nearly-quiet discomfort the album began with. There’s no comedown here—the battery stops, its oxygen stripped.

III I is not an album of convenience. Music this pitch-black demands a state of isolation, from light and from people, to be fully appreciated. This is an album that takes the listener through a seemingly endless mirror of our anxieties about what constitutes “beyond”—beyond life, the Earth, the sun swallowing us, and our conceptions of black metal. III I asks a lot from its listeners, and it delivers one of the year’s best black metal albums in return.

from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1yOLqPN