Just over a year ago, the demo/album from one-man band Necrolytic Goat Converter impressed me greatly, with its blend of DSBM that was as self-mocking as it was serious. So, hopes were high for new album Isolated Evolution. It’s a slightly different beast when compared with that initial record, but the core of therapeutic DSBM is still there. What’s changed is that there’s a greater sense of song-craft, with these songs having strong melodies and an almost accessible character. But even so, there’s still a lot of darkness and searching for catharsis at play, with the self-mockery toned back for something that feels incredibly honest and personal.
Though the album is wrapped up in a raw, rough production that’s heavily reminiscent of the like of Leviathan or Xasthur, the kind of DSBM that Necrolytic Goat Converter offer is far more accessible and melodic than either of those bands. Sure, songs like the title track and ‘Strange Symbols’ may be built upon furious riffs and leads that owe more than their fair share to the second wave of black metal – with Transylvanian Hunger being a clear reference point – but the way the riffs move and songs are structured gives them an undeniably catchy edge. The melodies in particular strike that sweet spot between darkness and accessibility that is, to me, one of the best aspects of DSBM, and helps give it that feeling of catharsis which the album is clearly aiming for.
On some tracks though, the riffs and melodies come close to veering away from black metal. The swaggering stomp of ‘The Dark Within’ feels as influenced by mid-90’s alt-metal and rock as it does, say, later-day Satyricon, and carries itself with a confidence and poise that is unusual for DSBM, though the vocals and tremolo-picked melodies mean there’s no mistaking it for anything other than black metal. Elsewhere, the slower tempos and crushing chords of ‘Seraphim’ edge the song in to hypnotic blackened doom territories, whilst the chorus brings back that alt-rock feel with its distorted-yet-clean vocals. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, and works surprisingly well.
The best track on Isolated Evolution comes close to the end of the album though, with ‘Eternal Winter (The Still)’. Here, the sound is more reminiscent of the majestic likes of Winterfylleth than anything typically associated with DSBM; the riffs are strong and proud, with the melodies adding a mournful edge. Together, they conjure an atmosphere of far-off mountains and woodlands, before coming to close with a solo that is pure classic rock. It’s a combination that really shouldn’t work, but it does – and best of all, the transition from one style to another is so natural that it’s easy to miss it happening until you’re halfway through the movement.
Isolated Evolution closes with ‘The Calamity Of Not Knowing’, the softest track on the album, that wouldn’t sound far out of place on a modern Alcest record. Whereas the previous six tracks all had rough edges and hostility mixed in with their melodic leanings, this track is (almost) all soft atmospheres and grace; even when the harsh black metal vocals kick in, there’s still something dream-like and largely relaxing about the song.
As with the previous demo though, there’s a sense throughout that this album is something incredibly personal, and that it’s ultimately created for sole member Chris’ own satisfaction/catharsis/therapy. It’s that intangible feeling that gives Isolated Evolution its strength of character and depth; there’s an honesty to the record that is quite wonderful, and enhances the album greatly. If you’re looking for black metal that feels as if it was made by an actual human being (drum programming aside, though I will add that they sound great for sampled drums) rather than a corpse-painted parody, you can’t do much better than Isolated Evolution.
Isolated Evolution is due for release on 18 August 2017, and can be pre-ordered on CD and digitally via Bandcamp.