Thursday, December 17, 2015

Deluge - Æther (2015)

Deluge are somewhat of an anomaly in how they arrive at a similar space to a lot of sludgier black metal bands but do so through an entirely different roster of influences, the most prominent of which are those in the post-hardcore field. There are a few similarities to New York's Castevet, Flourishing or fellow Frenchmen Celeste, who put out a number of killer records, but these gentlemen are far more direct in execution, and the shining series of chords they implement is used to a largely brutal effect. Most of the tracks here are front-ended or book-ended by rain samples, and it creates much to the band name's credit this utter downpour of emotion that can actually grow quite exhausting through its blasted portions which are dressed up with simple but surging rhythm guitars that channel a slightly airy presence over the tightly knit bass and drums.

It's not always a tug of war between the stillness and storms, they do perform some slower paced material which is just as basic in construction. This is another case where the music itself doesn't require a lot of variety or proficiency, the production is just so enormous and crushing that it can transform even the most minimal of notations into something more emotionally effective. I did get a little tired of the shouted, harsh vocals, which just grew a little monotonous, and I craved a little more intricacy in the guitar riffs, which are just standard flumes of tremolo picked chords with a slightly brighter feel than your average European black metal. The blast beat sections feel just overly straightforward, so once you've latched on to the patterns they never go anywhere unexpected, and a few bizarre or unique melodies popping up through the verses and choruses could have worked wonders against the more stable backdrop. The cleaner guitar progressions are also a little mediocre, they function only to create contrast but never seem so memorable by themselves.

In terms of engineering, Æther is just enormous; the drums alone will beat you into submission before you can even reach the volume control. But when the whole band is pouring on all the rhythmic concrete, you feel like this is just a pure wall of force. Bass lines don't deviate much from the rhythm guitars, but at least they're thick in the mix and thus ground the assault. Cover art by fellow French artist Metastazis for the digipack is just about perfect, a hypnotic image that does actually reflect how the band sounds. Ultimately, though, while I can't fault the sound Deluge are going for, this particular selection of songs all too rarely thrills with memorable licks, it's all too direct as it flattens the listener. Subtle touches like the distant, clean vocals in "Avalanche" are quite nice, but I just wish there were more of them, and that the band would invest in more jerky and unusual guitar riffs like a lot of the groovier post-hardcore bands from earlier eras. A curious, solid foundation has been laid out here, but I'd just like the architecture that springs from it to captivate my senses a little more than just merely beating me with a hammer.

Verdict: Indifference [6.75/10]

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