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A Stranglehold on Dread - 80%

FullMetalAttorney, May 11th, 2012

Abysmal Darkening is a Dutch doom metal band on Totalrust. Their debut full-length No Light Behind . . . comes eight years after the band's formation. In the simplest terms, their sound is sort of like Celtic Frost covering Black Sabbath, with some blackened touches. Not many bands have successfully incorporated tremolo riffing into a doom template, but you'll find just that on nearly every track here.

The album opens on a riff that recalls the intro to "Symptom of the Universe", but thankfully it doesn't turn out to be a sonic recycling bin. This doom plods ominously--even when the guitars are in tremolo mode--and only occasionally speeds up for a satisfying crescendo. There is also a healthy respect for dissonance, but just enough to be an accent and keep you on edge.

What really stands out on the album are the vocals. They remind me of the slower tracks from Dark Fortress's Morean, but the emotive qualities here leave the German in the dust. These truly sound like the paranoid ramblings of a madman, obsessed with "Marian", predicting nuclear winter.

The verdict: some bands' take on doom hardly seems as dreadful as the genre name suggests. Abysmal Darkening have a stranglehold on dread.

Originally written for

Abysmal Darkening - No light behind - 70%

Phuling, July 26th, 2011

Abysmal Darkening apparently released a very well-received demo in 2004, but have remained silent since. The promo sheet lets know that the band consists of former and current members of Bunkur, Planet AIDS and Funeral Goat. That doesn’t mean much to me since I’ve only heard the latter one, but to someone more familiar with the Dutch scene it might mean a whole lot. No light behind is nonetheless the band’s debut fullength, breaking a seven year silence, much to the delight of the people who loved their demo.

I’m having a lot of problems with this album. I’ve listened to it quite a number of times now, and while I find it to be real good stuff I never really get sucked in and hooked on the type of metal they peddle. I think the major fault here is the fact that I’ve grown pretty damn tired of all depressive styled metal bands, simply ‘cause it feels like we got flooded with half-arsed one-man bedroom projects that thought two drum beats, repetitive riffs and annoying howling constituted ‘depressive black metal’. After a couple of years I got so incredibly fed up with the shit, and have since had an extremely hard time appreciating band that carried too much angst in their sound. Thankfully, Abysmal Darkening is not a band of that ilk, but occasionally bring a few aesthetics of the sorts to their sound.

It’s in all honesty fairly difficult to label this, seeing as it occasionally has some 70ies psychedelic flair, whereas the bulk of their sound is some form of mixture of doom, sludge and black metal. Vocally the guy’s got a voice very fitting for the task, and while the main style is a slow and harsh black-esque scream, he breaks out into fantastic stoner/sludge shouts at times, and the variation in pitch and style really complements the various influences of their sound. Since the music has so many different aspects thrown in it’s easy to make comparisons to the various influences, but quite difficult to make a final comparison of similar style. One moment I might think of earlier doom like Black Sabbath and Saint Vitus, another moment brings loads of the drone-ier funeral doom acts to mind, just as I can’t help but feel a touch of Blood of the Black Owl coming through on occasion. Hell, even Fleshpress and Eyehategod pop in for a visit. This is so nuanced I’m not sure I could make a reference that didn’t fit in. The label, however, recommends it to fans of Bethlehem, Deinonychus, Celtic Frost and Urfaust, which are all completely different than my personal references.

The songs often vary in structure, where the build-up doesn’t follow the same linear path, which makes all the various aspects really come to life. The vocals are just top notch, the drumming varied and the riffing ok. There’s nothing wrong with the riffing, it really brings stoner, sludge, doom and black to the table in a great way, but I never feel hooked by it. It’s undoubtedly a truly competent band, the release is great, but for some reason I just don’t quite feel it. I still really recommend everyone to check it out, ‘cause I have a hunch I’m just too ignorant to appreciate No light behind for the semi-masterpiece that it is.

Originally written for My Last Chapter