Thursday, November 17, 2011

Drowning the Light - Oceans of Eternity (2011)

I can't help but think that the horned, bestial skull on the cover of this new Drowning the Light album is confirming what the title and oceanic backdrop openly hint: we will soon be sailing on a sea of oblivion, every last shred of living flesh stripped from us. And it's remarkable that the Australians have actually captured just this aesthetic here, on what is clearly one of their most melodic and chilling efforts to date. Intense, streaming tremolo lines are hurled in layers of blood-bright gloss at the listener while the vocals offer up libations of glorious, nihilistic grime that seem intentionally lo fi to the point that some of the deeper growls often squelch within the mix. Surely, Oceans of Eternity is abrasive, and I felt that its earlier half was somewhat monotonous, but the dour, emotional climax of its final third helps round this out into another success for these fiends.

Coming off Catacombs of Blood, which I believe to be their strongest album at least that I've actually heard, one might really expect that Drowning the Light had finally hit their stride, and now would come the responsibility to maintain it. I wouldn't place odds on this album over that in a fistfight, but what I admire is the band's ability to shift visual and lyrical aesthetics into different terrains and themes while never abandoning their harrowing, feral grasp. Tracks like the titular "Oceans of Eternity" and the pummeling "Cataclysmic Cycle of Renewal" give the aural impression of some vast open horizon of ghouls, the wind blowing in their tattered remnants of hair and garb while they crash towards some briny abyss. There's nothing unusual about how Azgorh composes his material; the riffs are drawn directly from the Scandinavian second wave legends like Immortal, Enslaved, and the like, yet Drowning the Light seems even more glaring and apologetic about the constant use of melody here.

I also quite love the clean guitar sequences here, like "Drifting Away in a Sea or Sorrow" or the very end of "Cataclysmic Cycle...", or the cheesy but amazing synthesized choir textures the band whips up for the latter half of "The Poison Kiss", which is coincidentally one of the best songs here, along with the hypnotic "Oppression & Tyranny" and the punishing finale "The Runes Are Thrown & The Bones are Spread (A Hymn to the Apocalypse)". While a few of the pieces on the earlier half of the record seem rather one-track in their execution, and I felt like I could only take so much of the band's windy, reverb-strewn faster melodies and tortured, Burzum-like vocals in a row, there is certainly strength on this album to satiate those who seek a consistent, atmospheric experience, and if you're into fellow Australians like Atra, Ill Omen, Erebus Enthroned and the like then you'll most certainly want to give this a spin.

Verdict: Win [7.75/10]

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