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Human mind suffering occupies a prominent place in black metal repertoire, as to have allowed the emergence of a psychiatric problems’ dedicated subgenre. Depressive suicidal black metal (also known by its acronym DSBM) is populated by a plethora of groups that try to musically reproduce certain of the most common mental illnesses’ characteristics. Most of these bands rely on an extremely dense song writing technique, deploying multiple layers of guitars, saturating everything with distortion, with vocals recalling pig castration. Artistically limited, DSBM still has led to the emergence of a few bands able to go beyond usual clichés of this subgenre, drawing inspiration from other metal styles. The amateur will spontaneously think of Shining and Forgotten Tomb, but he will now have to add Dantalion to his list.
Return to Deep Lethargy is the fourth album from this Galicia band that, despite its eight years of existence, has never been fully recognized or appreciated. Effort put on this album may be able to remedy this situation. This quartet’s music is a softer form of black metal, mixed with doom, suggesting melancholic and despaired atmospheres. This aspect is highlighted on Lethargy and Pain, a song that opens the album. Its general structure is set on a few riffs interpreted in loops and played at medium speed, but heart of this tune is based on shorter and slower passages, where guitar treble is echoing Sanguinist scorched voice. Stylistic similarities with Katatonia are here perfectly transparent, Dantalion even covering Murder (which can be found on the Swedish horde’s second album). Both bands also share same lyrical elements. However, the Spanish quartet differs from its illustrious colleagues with a rougher sound and a much more aggressive voice.
Rest of the album, however, demonstrates why Dantalion is slow to emerge. Songs like Until My Time Comes or The Arrival of Silence are well written and performed, but suffer from a certain lack of originality. It is hard to identify the brand of the group, something that would really distinguish it from its fellows. Part of the answer may be on Ode to Nothingness, with its remarkable introduction? There is certainly something there that can be dig.
It is too early to comment Dantalion’s future and what kind of impact – if any – this fourth album will have on its career, but I just hope that this very good album will help its members escape from shade, thereby encouraging them to assert themselves and to develop further. 7/10
Originally written for Métal Obscur.
Return to Deep Lethargy is the fourth album of Spaniards Dantalion, and their first for Unexploded Records. If you've gotten the chance to hear their material in the past, you'll know that they perform a blend of traditional black metal with an overwhelming sense of melody and sadness that many would more often equate with the melodic doom of early to mid period Katatonia. It's perhaps important to note that band as an influence here, since they close out this disc with a cover of "Murder" from the 1996 album Brave Murder Day, but beyond that, the Swedes' inherent sense of layering melodic textures over driving rhythmic undercurrent permeates the majority of the six originals here, which creates a constant aesthetic of desperation and abandon that pairs well with the vocals.
Sanguinist's timbre is quite hoarse and tormented, almost as if he were gargling gravel until his throat began to bleed, and it actually adds a pretty effective contrast against the lockstep of the sorrowful guitar patterns. I will admit that a lot of the band's rhythm riffing seems nothing new if you've been partial to the Swedish hybrid of black and Gothic doom in the past, simplistic patterns of chords occasionally threaded with tremolo picking sequences, but once they get all their eggs in the same basket and have both the guitar progressions rattling off against the sobering pain in the vocal, they create a tangible level of suffering. The drums are quite reflexive and tight, with lots of dainty little fills to hold the attention, and solid foot work or blasting where the tracks begin to pick up pace, but I wouldn't say they erupt into a faster pace quite so much as they might have on their older records like When the Ravens Fly Over Me. Still, it's a great way of splitting up the more morose, slower terrain that so many of these riffs carve out.
There are definitely a handful of chord patterns here capable of hypnotizing the listener and providing for a deeper experience ("The Arrival of Silence" and "Onward to Darkness" in particular), but I still felt the niggling sensation that I'd been down this road before and that several of the band's somber forebears have written far catchier, gloomier songs in this niche. That said, Return to Deep Lethargy is an apt title for the record, and Dantalion have efficiently provided the soundtrack for an overcast afternoon of solitude and pessimistic self reflection which, more often than not, invests the listener in shared regret. I wouldn't go so far as to call this album 'depressive black metal', since the production of the guitars and drums seem too clean and professional for that sphere, the melodies too surfaced and accessible, but certainly the vocals have a coat of grime to them that wounds the soul. The "Murder" cover is decent, especially with Sanguinist's more tortured tone growling above the melody. All in all, a successful effort, if nothing unique or transitory.