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Featuring among its ranks Enthroned bassist/vocalist Phorgath and guitarist Olve aka Nerath Daemon, this year sees Belgian black/death metal band Emptiness return with their brand new album Error, 5 years after the release of their previous album, and with such a strong lineup, there is definitely a pretty high level of expectations of this release, particularly for fans of Enthroned who are looking for something fresh from this project of the members.
Opening track Deafer certainly caught be off-guard, where unlike the style that Enthroned has crafted, Emptiness here provides a drastically different style of music, with their blackened death metal style leaning more towards such bands as Archgoat (with a more experimental touch to their music) through the almost ritualistic mood, what with the deep guttural vocals pushing the limits of sanity of the listener, though it would not hurt if the band could incorporate a heavier and more ominous atmosphere in the music, with some moments sounding too light, reducing the impact that the violent music on Error that could have potentially caused. There is also a feeling of doom that also runs throughout the album, with the repetitive riffs and at times it sounds almost as if the sole focus of the band is to leave listeners dazed and disoriented, especially the vocal attack of Phorgath and Olve at times sounding like a crazed whisper, upholding the theme of horror and darkness of the band's music, yet at other times sounding monstrous as hell, and this certainly fucks with the listener's mind, and one almost feels as if all light were sucked out and what is left is nothing but endless darkness.
Throughout the entirety of the album, numerous surprises are held in place for the listener, and for the most part the band successfully creates an uneasy feel in the listener that leaves a lasting impression in the listener's mind, such as that weird-sounding solo towards the end of title track, Error. The experimental side of the band also shows on tracks like Worst, with the chaotic guitars and that usual fanatic vocals running on top and a simple drum beat running beneath, yet sounding and progressing in perfect unison, displaying the songwriting prowess of the band. That said though, songs like Not Enough see the band simply break out into total chaos, with no sense of coherence whatsoever and this would certainly throw some listeners off.
With Error, Emptiness has managed to join the list of bands that manage to churn out some of the most experimental, chaotic and disturbing music alongside bands such as Portal and Impetuous Ritual, and would definitely be a good album for those seeking a dark, unsettling journey.
Having discovered Belgians Emptiness through their superb 2007 sophomore Oblivion, I had build up rather massive expectations for the inevitable follow-up, which I'm afraid haven't exactly been met with Error. Not to write this off as a negative step or a bad album by any means, but here they've gone for a more chaotic, atmospheric tone that falls somewhat short of the riffing explosions characteristic of Oblivion, and I'm not sure the trade pays off. Granted, both of the band's earlier works were quite distinct and atmospheric efforts in of themselves, but the guitar progressions felt more expressive and structured where here they form simpler patterns beneath the low pitch of the vocals, with perhaps a sheen of black influence circa the recent Enthroned (which Phorgath and Nerath Daemon also play in).
Tracks like "Worst" and "Error" are loaded with these simplistic tremolo lines whose intention is to hypnotize the listener while the tectonic gutturals belch forth alongside the thundering drum belligerence of drummer Twan. Very often, the tracks will lurch into these shifting, dissonant grooves that feel seismic in origin but rarely catch the ear for long, or they'll drift into spacier ambient/distorted guitar sequences where the percussion will subside, or the occasional blasted burst. The leads are frenzied and often trippy (once again, I'd refer you to the title track "Error") but rarely very memorable, and though the band are playing in perfect lock step, there seems something so loose and messy about the songs that it seems underwhelming after the sheer magnificence of the last album. That said, there are some points here where it all really gels together to create this warm, cavernous post-metal cacophony with strains of textured chords that write about the mind, usually deeper on the record like "Low" or the closer "No Earth".
Particular threads are certainly consistent with Oblivion, like the minimalistic approach to song titles, the deeper vocals and a number of the guitar sequences, but I feel they were definitely attempting something more tangibly ominous and raw. Strangely, Error is perhaps the most consistent of the band's records in terms of its internal variation. It plays out like a single, menacing symphony from some subterranean space, and it's nearly as oppressive, jarring and unnerving as something from Australians Portal, or perhaps a death metal Neurosis. Alas, this time out the songs simply are not of the caliber that I wished to experience repeatedly; but those who are heavily enamored of the voluminous, chasmal death metal redolent of early Autopsy, Incantation or Immolation, and would be interested in an admittedly different take on the aesthetic, would certainly do well to give these sepulchral emissions at least a once over. For if anything, Emptiness retains a unique quality to it that you won't hear every day.
This Belgian four-piece has been around since 1998, and since then they’ve released three albums with the addition of “Error”, which is to be released through Dark Descent Records in May of 2012. With “Error” they’ve delved into a much-too-treaded path that has been visited by numerous bands in the past, in which they believe that by repetition and simplistic arrays of notes they should be deemed artistic and/or thoughtful. That’s not a criticism, but rather, an observation, and it forces their music into a far more atmosphere-driven arena than their previous efforts. Brewing lots of heavy grooves and simplistic tremolo riffs, there are some evident similarities with the latest Enthroned album, two members of which also reside in Emptiness. That is to say, they have a corpulent guitar tone and heavy riffs, but unlike Enthroned, Emptiness typically tread along slower tempos and simpler arrangements/structures.
An ambient introduction in “Deafer” kicks off the album, and with that, a procession of warlike drums and incredibly groove-influenced riffs that ensue soon after. An admitted seamless transition between different segments in the song progresses the music forward smoothly, the guitars mellow (i.e. not very fast) and heavy under the deep growl of the vocalist. An almost jazzy influence can be heard throughout some of the even more mellow parts of songs, such as in the middle of the title track, and lots of atmospheric riffs play a key role in the style that they’ve snatched with this record. Usually these atmospheric riffs are played by tremolo riffs, and almost always accompanied by heavy chugging that, quite frankly, tires the listener. Other influences crop themselves up occasionally, such as a dissonant inclination with the guitars, especially with higher notes, but they never stray far from the groove-laden mid-paced riffs. Unfortunately, lots of superfluous elements are inducted as well, making for an elongated listen when in fact they could’ve made it much shorter. (An example, the track “Nothing”, which, coincidentally, does nothing).
The drums tend to make heavy use of toms and very snail-paced beats, never playing blast beats and sometimes using double bass; proving once more that Emptiness didn’t focus on speed and aggressiveness with this album. Typical characteristics of black/death metal (namely war metal) aren’t very prominent in “Error”, a dearth of chaotic and relentless blast beats burdening the music beneath the weight of the guitars, and it is quite obvious that Emptiness have strayed into a different style of black/death. Here they seem to be treading water half of the time, grooving with the guitars the rest of the time. To be honest, I’ve my doubts of the actual black/death ‘metalness’ of this album, as most of the time they seem to be performing grooves or chugs, and scarcely do they actually focus on the speed and brutality that’s often associated with said genre. All of the instruments do, however, have a certain correlation with each other; nevertheless, I found little else of note to be found on “Error”. Recommended for fans of groove metal, not black/death.