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Boon from the gods of doom - 96%

gasmask_colostomy, June 13th, 2018

Seeing that I drooled all over Solemn about an hour ago, you would bet that my feeling would be similar about this little extra from Towards Darkness's short discography. Recorded at the same time as the excellent debut album, this was in fact released along with some versions of the sophomore Barren five years after that and then given a separate release afterwards. Odd gestation and birth aside, the two songs that Empire holds are more of the same creative doom metal that made the Canadian group's full-lengths so worthwhile.

Admittedly not quite as long as many of the grandiose album tracks that Towards Darkness have produced, the listener will nonetheless be taken for a spin over the course of 18 minutes, not least because 'Self Destruct' is probably the most aggressive thing to grace the band's recordings, harking back to their tenure as a sludge doom band called The Mass. The thunderous vocals have none of the usual mournfulness of doom, instead ripping into the song with the same kind of venom as Marco Aro or Jacob Bredahl of The Haunted and Hatesphere, though the entire experience goes along at a much slower pace than those groups. For those searching for a real comparison, imagine High on Fire blown up to gigantic size and you're somewhere close. Bafflingly, the thick assault of churning riffs and roars breaks down into an interesting clean section that uses post-rock dynamics to build back up into a finale that melds together elements of several styles for an ambiguous yet emotional ending.

The longer of the songs is 'Empire' and this one sounds much closer to the other material found on Solemn. The piece trudges in on a warping heavy riff, the funeral doom atmosphere assured by the ticking of cymbal fills and epic keyboard notes that rise to become a key element by the halfway point, the guitar taking a higher-pitched route, which makes the thuds of the drums and infrequent guitar chords crash against the speakers like icy waves onto a storm-damaged shore, all before the choirs of the climax make it seem as if the sky is opening up and Towards Darkness will rise into the gap in the pantheon. If I haven't made it clear enough in that last sentence, this is a really fucking epic song and quite possibly the most amazing thing I've heard so far this week (which is the Review Challenge, so that's putting this above a shitload of stuff).

Despite seeming like a merely throwaway release, the quality of the music on Empire assures that any fan of Thergothon or Esoteric will be well rewarded by taking a risk on a purchase. Exceptionally, emotions run as high as during a full-length experience, while there is absolutely no question of attention wavering, not with the experimentation of one track and sheer magnitude of the other. Do not view this as a cash grab, but as a boon from the gods of funeral doom.

-- May Diamhea's feat of 100 reviews in 7 days remain unbeaten