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Seemingly not intending to be predictable and in accordance with their off the cuff recording style, Divine Codex's sophomore is quite a different beast to Ante Matter. It's less brutal and a little less angry than the snarling, chaotic debut. It has more in common with Norwegian black metal constructions, all racing blasts and gritty vocals soaring above the guitars. Took me quite a while to really get into it as well, as opposed to the last album which had me by the nads upon the first spin.
Notably it clocks in over 50 minutes, with 'Journey Through Dying Dimensions' and 'Decrepitude Enigma' coming in past the 9 minute mark. Atum and Guh.Lu seemingly decided to scrap the interludes that peppered the debut and plump for longer songs, creating a pretty much non-stop near-hour of blasting atmospheric black metal.
'Supreme Catharsis Synthesized' sums the album up pretty well - memorable as hell and more atmospheric. Amazing, predominantly blasting drums, cool chants, one of this year's hits for me. Fortunately for me that vibe is all over this record - 'Domain of the Fallen' is pretty much a sequel to that opening song, and 'Journey Through Dying Dimensions' is like an expanded version of it, and in fact with the almost constantly fast drums and pleasant, droning guitars buzzing constantly, the whole album falls together pretty well.
The atmosphere is realized better than ever. If Ante Matter was a violent tumble out of the airlock into the unforgiving void, The Dark Descent is exploring some abandoned intergalactic outpost, the promise of Lovecraftian monstrosities in every pitch crevice. Some chanting vocals add to the astral feel here and there, booming low end voices that make you think of hostile ancient landscapes and H.R. Giger. I particularly like the groaning chants at the end of 'Outer Source of Reality'.
Guh.Lu's approach to riffs this time tend to make way for the enhanced presence of the keyboards, mostly sinister tremolo lines. Every now and again you get a surprise though, some epic chugging, a more hyperactive and galloping riff, doom metal sections in 'Decrepitude Enigma', the Behemoth style opening to 'Outer Source of Reality'.
Atum once again proves himself a killer drummer, very technical and pretty original, lacing on some ear candy here and there. His approach is slightly more straightforward this time around - blast, d-beat, blast, but his fills and rolls are crazy awesome. Setherial's polymath drummer Alastor Mysteriis is back on vocal duty, supplying lustful rasps, gurning mutters and other weird sounds. He's a great choice for this kind of nasty, oppressive yet vast vibe.
In terms of grumbles, I would say that 'Psycho Maze Vortex' only gets interesting halfway through, hampered initially by some slightly predictable riffing and a lack of atmosphere, and that the otherwise fantastic 'Decrepitude Enigma' might drag a bit by the time you get into its final minute. Other than that, not much fat on this platter at all.
It's hard to pick between this and Ante Matter for a favourite - this is a longer listen, without the schizophrenic mood and near flawless compactness of the previous record, but perhaps more accomplished in terms of its emotional impact, and really rewards multiple experiences. A lot of the stuff here I like more than the material on the debut, it's just got a couple of dud moments as well. Totally different listening experience overall, but should still appeal if you liked the last album - or if the idea of a Marduk-Darkspace hybrid turns you on.