Label: Arachnophobia Records
The best black metal isn’t always the most immediate. It’s a genre where there is much to be explored in the shadows, with subtle changes, repetition, and a general disregard for convention often holding the most potential. Yet there’s also a good number of bands playing black metal who can take you by the throat, and it only takes a single play of their album for you to understand just how good they are. The new album from Poland’s In Twilight’s Embrace, Vanitas, is one such example. This is black metal with all superfluous elements removed, streamlined in to its most deadly form, unleashing an all-out assault right from the start with great results.
Clocking in at just over half an hour, Vanitas packs a lot in to its relatively concise duration. Opener ‘The Hell of Mediocrity’ is as good an opening salvo as you could hope for, filled with furious drumming, ice-cold tremolo-picked leads and commanding vocals; but there’s more to it than that. There’s also a strong sense of dynamics and clever song-writing, meaning that – as furious and vicious as the song is – it doesn’t undermine itself with its own violence, and contains both an immediate rush of excitement, and a long-lasting appeal from the way the song constantly shifts and moves. The sense of confidence exuded by the band is also apparent (as you’d hope from a band who dares to title a song ‘The Hell of Mediocrity’!), and helps give In Twilight’s Embrace that something extra.
The song is a fair representation of what the album offers. There are slower, almost anthemic moments – such as ‘Fan The Flame’ – and those that venture in to more uncomfortable territories, like the opening minute of fourth track ‘Trembling’; but overall, Vanitas is an exercise in strong melodies, muscular riffs, and the power of extreme metal. As far as black metal goes, it is definitely on the more enjoyable (rather than hateful or nihilistic) side – despite the heavy subject matter, dealing with death and mortality, you sense that, similar to the likes of Rotting Christ or fellow Poles Voidhanger, In Twilight’s Embrace want to get the listener banging their head and raising horns to their music. There is still a slightly melancholic edge at times, and some of the leads are reminiscent of the kind of black metal Mgla are creating, but even if there are moments that recall other bands, In Twilight’s Embrace ultimately have the confidence and talent that ensures they ultimately sound like no one other than themselves.
And what a glorious sound it is. Vanitas is the kind of album that absolutely flies by, and still sounds fresh even after more than a dozen listens. It is a prime demonstration of how to create an album that is consistent in sound without ever risking sounding repetitive, with all of the band’s confidence and experience being used to result in one of the year’s strongest black metal records.
Vanitas is due for release on 22 September 2017. It can be pre-ordered via the Arachnophobia Records webstore. The vinyl version is due to be available for pre-order shortly after the CD release.