Label: Blackened Death Records
Clocking in at 50 minutes, and featuring three DSBM bands of differing styles, Shades of Sorrow could well have ended up being an emotionally crushing, desolate affair. And, to some extent, it is – but that’s how we’d want it to be. Featuring the fury of Suicide Wraith, the eclectic Necrolytic Goat Converter, and the raw sorrow of Uncanny Reality, this three-way split is an underground gem of DSBM that is as punishing as you’d hope, but also with a sense of catharsis running throughout that ensures it never becomes overbearing, and gives the listener plenty of reasons to come back for more.
Suicide Wraith open the split. The project of Pope Richard released the excellent Suicide is the Path of Ghosts earlier in the year, a deeply personal album of furious, cathartic DSBM that was deeply personal in origin, yet still accessible. The three tracks contributed to this split maintain the levels of fury seen previously, but subtly build upon the sound the band established. Hitting that sweet spot between four and seven minutes in length, these three songs largely race by in a blur of rage, directly both internally and outward, yet they also possess a strong sense of melody. It’s not all about speed, though; ‘Far From Grace’ is a melancholic crawl, that owes as much to doom as it does traditional DSBM; and closer’ Suicide Messiah’ opens up in a very unsettling manner, before ending in a blaze of violence and echoing chords.
Necrolytic Goat Converter take the central three tracks, beginning with ‘An Ill-Conceived Ritual’ – a song that gradually builds in intensity in almost, well, ritualistic fashion. The ominous opening soon gives way to a more up-tempo movement, propelled along by razor-sharp guitar leads and furious, heavily distorted vocals. There’s a more prevalent sense of violence here than on album Isolated Evolution, as well as a distinct sense of coldness and loneliness. This is also true of ‘Hordes of Death’, which has an almost discordant feel at points. Final track of the three, ‘Fierce Cvlt’, is a more playful beast, as might be inferred from its slightly tongue-in-cheek title. Featuring a crusty bass line, classic metal guitars, and a punked-up sense of energy that’s not far removed from much of Darkthrone’s later-day records, it’s a short, riotous ride, that helps stop the mood of Shades of Sorrow getting too dark.
Uncanny Reality keep things firmly rooted in blackness and misery, though. The music of sole member Immørdæk is filled with a raw, aching sense of hurt, and these three tracks are no exception. This is DSBM as music for late-night ruminations upon failure, the melodies carrying as much self-loathing and inwardly directed hatred as they do a longing for release and catharsis. There are still aspects to these tracks that can enjoyed – the guitar leads during ‘Dipsomania’ are arguably the highlight of the whole split, combining an understated technicality with incredible emotional weight – but the overall impression is one that is emotionally devastating, and incredibly impressive. The sorrowful weight in the riffs of ‘Black Clouds Over England’ brings to mind the excellent likes of Black Autumn; whilst closer ‘The Ghost of an Uninvited Guest’ is a disturbing piece of dark ambient, and a fitting way to see the split out.
What’s notable about Shades of Sorrow is that each band contributing has their own distinct take on DSBM, and those differences ensures that the split stays interesting. Those slight variations of sound also ensure that the bands come across all the better for being placed alongside their contemporaries. It’s also worth highlighting that, whilst most splits will see one band clearly come off best, that’s not the case here – all three acts come off very well on Shades of Sorrow, making this a release that deserves to stand out in the crowded scene of modern DSBM.
Shades of Sorrow is available digitally via Bandcamp to stream and download.