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Cosmic Octopi - 90%

Evokaphile, March 6th, 2017

Its rather difficult to spark a discussion about Setentia without tipping the proverbial hat to their influences. Destructive compatriots of the southern hemisphere, Ulcerate, have had an increasingly strong influence on the death metal world as more bands choose to swim in the murky waters of foreboding dissonance, and their influence on the spawning of Setentia is present in spades. However aesthetically consistent these comparisons may be, Darkness Transcend is a far cry from a flattering imitation of its forefather's achievements. Rather, such statements in this regard are only really a jumping off point for equivocating the band’s next-of-kin. Opting for a more dynamic, melodious, and colorful palette than the aforementioned, Setentia have carved an unmistakably autonomous sound from the principles of death metal's modern revolution. The 2016 competition was stiff in this corner of the music world, with the likes of Zhrine, Départe, Gorguts and Deathspell Omega offering their own superb forays into discordant mischief. Nonetheless, this malevolent cephalopod of an album has no trouble standing with authoritative poise amongst these heavyweight releases.

HP Lovecraft wrote of the destructive Cthulu on numerous occasions, and the ethos of this mythic beast has long since transcended the confines of the stories that birthed it. Nearly a cultural institution at this point, the tentacled silhouette of the ocean’s cruelty manifest has since harboured within the nightmares of man himself. Reaching into the ominous wake of this legend, Setentia’s own tentacles of destruction move with a grand intent. Having spent over half a decade composing and refining their debut album, the expectations for effulgent and sophisticated songwriting were high upon its release. On this front, Darkness Transcend truly succeeds at creating a vivid landscape of elemental dismay and collapse, brandishing a tactile production job that makes the atmosphere rather up-close and personal; as if the horrifying tentacles of Cthulu himself are closely encircling you in the robust haze of a psychedelic stupor.

Musicianship á la excellence pours from every member. Pirouetting with a slithering geometry, the guitars shift with ease between emotionally unsettling chord structures and razor sharp riffing without ever losing sense of purpose or focus. Meanwhile, undulating with a tidal power, the bass is prominently mixed and preformed with a humble but integral ferocity that offers contrast with the guitars as opposed to simply falling numb to the chain of command. Atop this vengeful composition, a cursing and anguished voice spits hot coals of dire omen with subdued confidence, arid and powerful as if conducting the sonic eschaton from the long cast shadow of a great storm. Equally unhinged as the others, and executed with the confusing brilliance of a mad scientist, the drum work on display easily stands with the top performances of recent memory. Tightroping between polyrhythmic absurdity and breakneck catharsis, vivid cymbal flourishes and hefty fill-rolls richly flavour the music with a complex yet savoury palette. The level of technical know-how to pull off the acrobatics each of these members revel upon is one thing; however, to write songs with such evocative purpose is another. The virtuosic aptitude that spills out of Darkness Transcend's core simply does not fall victim to selfish motive, and the most captivating moments here are generally only revealed after numerous and attentive spins of the record. As standalone excursions, each individual track offers a plethora of structural and emotional variety, yet it is not until this album enjoyed in full that each moment really begins to actualize its place in the greater scheme of things. Ambiance draws reprieve like watercolors at discerningly precise moments, offering plenty of breathing room to keep the maze of addictively engaging vehemence at its most impactful. This interplay between emotional release and the constricting grip of Setentia’s coordinated attacks is what makes each moment all the better; with the timing of each progression not only welcomed, but beckoned by the dynamics of the music itself.

Truly, Setentia move with the polymorphous complexity of a cosmic octopus as each appendage convulses with a multifarious independence, enveloping a common goal from a myriad of altering directions. With this brilliantly gymnastic exhibition a grand display of dubious intricacy is unleashed, and Darkness Transcend proves itself a monolithic and ingenious revelation of atmospheric death metal. Setentia have quickly cemented themselves amongst genre's highest echelon, revealing themselves with confounding depth, reverent intrigue, and a staying power that will keep hungry ears famished for Cthulu's oracular return.