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Churns like Mayhem, but with a dolorous side. - 80%

c_zar, January 5th, 2013

Underdark’s accomplished album I Am Above All is one of the best instances of a band other than Mayhem developing the roiling Wolf’s Lair Abyss aesthetic. While the mode of attack for this Ukrainian onemanband varies from song to song, album opener “Basements of Consciousness” is informed by Wolf’s Lair Abyss much the same way that the second 1349 album was; full throttle shifting gears black metal at the edge of chaotic war metal, yet held together and regrouped in tight metric configurations. Simply put, in this cut Underdark blackly grinds (0:36), reorients (1:23), and decides upon another way to do the same thing— another way to achieve obliteration (1:29 & 3:03). Drummer-propelled black metal, deemphasizing vocals and emphasizing the churn. “Apotheosis of Insignificance” also proffers the roiling aesthetic (esp at 1:40 & 4:16) as well as the blitzkrieg maelstrom instrumental “Depth of Idea.”

Unlike Wolf’s Lair Abyss, I Am Above All often drops into mid-tempo sections, giving the album a more rocking feel than the deadly evil Mayhem release. Underdark proprietor Amorth Incubus Magnum clearly enjoys his material and at times playfully interacts with it. “Leaving,” undoubtedly the best song on the album, does not push the annihilation manifesto, but something heavier…and more confusing. A largely mid-tempo song of sluggish riffs, this tune is not played— it lurks. The combative interplay between the drums and lethargic riffs (from 3:10-end) is absolutely brilliant AND new— a weird and disorienting deconstruction of the dank soundworld. Bravo. This song- and in particular this section- is truly inspired.

The sad-victory song “I Am Above All” displays another Underdark mode: that of somber chord progressions. This doomy tune is a fluid and triumphant dirge-march with a hectic detour and a bit more of that very cool antagonistic drumming (3:30). The sped-up polka version of the doom lick is a bit silly/forced (4:16-4:42), but the song as a whole is a success. The two sonic eulogies that follow both work well to close out the album.

I Am Above All is a thoroughly impressive and varied release, half of which is obliteration manifesto and half of which is grooved and somnolent black metal. Highly recommended.