Label: Eternal Death
My issue with a lot of death metal is that, in its quest for technicality and dissonance, it lost its soul. Nightmare soundscapes crafted by musicians at the top of their game is all well and good, but when it comes across as existing for its own sake, with no higher purpose or motivation, it can feel a bit flat. That’s not something that can be levelled at Know The Way To Embrace The Darkness by Italian band Vashna. Echoes of bands such as Portal may be impossible to ignore, but Vashna combine otherworldly horror with a much more physical, violent presence than is usual, making this release one that hits both the body and the soul in all sorts of hard, terrible, delightful ways.
As might be expected, Know The Way… is not an easy listen, and requires time and patience to properly comprehend. The tracks are built upon warped foundations, infusing the songs with twisted spirits and such an overarching sense of wrongness that on more than one occasion, I had to check that my headphones hadn’t blown out. Even at its most straightforward – such as the sludgey, crawling opening of “Elpmet Driht” – it still sounds twisted, as if the music is being transmitted through some medium not intended for human faculties. And though this sort of other-worldly death metal is now too well established for a release such as this to count as being truly avant-garde, there is a feeling that conventions are being toyed with, right down to the ordering of the tracks, with the introduction track being hidden further on the cassette.
It is understandable if the record may seem overwhelming, though. It’s taken me more listens than usual to reach a point where I feel I can appreciate and (try to) understand Know The Way…, and in today’s music culture of instant gratification, a release such as this may never find the audience it truly deserves. It would be a shame if so, as Vashna have shown that dissonant death metal can be improved not only by going even further out there, but also by retaining a sense of physicality and, relatively speaking, a more straightforward approach. There are still plenty of dizzying, head-spinning riffs and movements, but they’re all the more effective for being paired with a sense of greater physicality than is the norm.
As off-putting and inaccessible as it may be though, Know The Way… is a strangely seductive, addictive listen, that is all the more appealing for its apparent disregard for the comfort of the listener. There is no easy way in, no easy riffs on which to grab hold of or hooks to cling to. The only choice is to persevere, weathering the deathly storm until something like understanding emerges. It may take time, but it is worth doing so.