It is a good sign when I find it easy to write a review for a release and this one flowed after just a few listens. Invoking desertification, corruption, and the entire post-apocalyptic milieu, Dead River Runs Dry are a newly forged Australian black metal assault. A vile and pessimistic atmosphere, raw and untrammeled by any instinct for civilization, marks the four tracks of this, their debut demo release (available for free download via the Bandcamp link provided below in the label line).
Dead River Runs Dry stick closely to the conventions and formulae of the black metal genre, but nonetheless deftly avoid the pitfalls of cliché and staleness that sometimes haunt the style. Each track offers a coarse slab of mid- to frantic-paced black metal, sometimes with some thrashier elements thrown into the mix to keep the edges ragged and flinty-sharp.
Wrapped around the guitar riffage is some very solid bass work and drumming, the rhythm section providing a tight and snarling structure for the music as a whole. The vocals ride over the instrumentation with an appropriately sickening shriek and gurgle, and occasional clean choirs add extra flesh to the performances.
This is not a band that channels anything bright or joyous; disgust and contempt strive in conflict with occasional remembrances of grandeur. All in all this tension conjures the harsh realities of a drought-laden continent – possibly in a few decades, all life stripped from its broad back.
Yet there is also a swagger and a strut to the songs, reminiscent of Serbian black metal band Kozeljnik. I suppose the recent violent history of the Balkans is to Kozeljnik’s brand of vileness what the rapidly decaying and desertifying Australian landscape is to Dead River Runs Dry’s distempered onslaught.
Black metal almost always seems to be in dialogue with the environment. Even the most apocalyptic and misanthropic of its manifestations is possessed of a certain horizonal drama; it sweeps down from mountains, sends oceans churning, and sets forests ablaze. The challenge for Australian black metal has always been to find a sound that suits the local climate and geography (rather than incongruous invocations of the frost-bitten north). In this respect Dead River Runs Dry seem to be succeeding admirably.
The music also attempts to dive into the pit of humanity’s responsibility for the environmental disaster presently sweeping the planet. This is courageous, creatively speaking, when compared to the fantasy- land-nature-worship nostalgia some artists are guilty of committing. In short, then: the very promising musical content offered on this demo is supported by a mature complex of ideas and spiritual questions.
All in all, a well produced and performed demo release, from a band that sounds like it has the stamina to carve out an ideological hell hole all of its own in the barren wastes of the Australian desert. Prophetic, sun-blasted, and antagonistic from start to finish.
01) The Weapon Black
02) Paradigm of Barbaric Antiquity
03) Way of the Plunderer
04) Dying Gleam of the Sun Eternal