Somewhere in the vast area that is western Russia, two young men in Elijah D. and Kolodum have bonded together under the Darkeater banner over their shared love of cosmic and depressive black metal. This partnership culminated into their 2014 debut EP, Блуждая по тёмной стороне, and now, only one year later, we are able to immerse ourselves in their debut full-length, Иней чёрного рассвета, which translates to Black Dawn’s Rime.
Over the course of a couple of decades, a great deal of depressive and ambient black metal albums have been released, and, outside of relatively few outstanding ones—consider classics from Burzum, ColdWorld, Abyssic Hate, Drowning the Light, Xasthur, and Lustre—the genre has been lost to a plague of mediocrity. The key to composing an exciting and enthralling depressive black metal album is to write simple, atmospheric, and trudging pieces with a tantalizing edge. Obviously, this is not as easy as it sounds, because creating an arc of suspense with the help of minimalism is a real artistic challenge.
On Иней чёрного рассвета, the young Russian duo does a lot of good. With the ambient intro, ‘Скоро гроза…’ (‘It’s Going to Storm…’), the album starts with a sense of calm. However, Darkeater are immediately able to set the pace and the mood for the forthcoming fifty minutes. That was one of their greatest strengths on their first album; one gets sucked into their sound right from the beginning, and this atmosphere stays present over the course of the entire album. There is no track or longer passage to be found on Иней чёрного рассвета that destroys the melancholy. When the silent keyboard sounds and the thunder and lightning samples of ‘Скоро гроза…’ come to an end, the first real song, ‘Дождь мой свидетель’ (‘The Rain Is My Witness’), begins and introduces harshly produced guitars, drums and, hysterical black metal shrieks. The elements work well together and constitute a typical song for this genre, since the subtle keyboards in the background always keep the depressive melody alive. In the middle of the track, Darkeater surprises us with an unexpectedly solid lead-guitar performance, interestingly reminding one of the works of earlier Alcest or Arctic Plateau.
One can occasionally find a stronger focus on the keyboards (for example, ‘Зов мёртвых звёзд’ [‘Dead Stars Call’] whose keyboards are deeply inspired by the Burzum ambient releases) or on the harsh sounds of typical black metal guitars (‘Чертоги опустошения’ [‘Halls of Devastation’]). This is another of Darkeater’s strengths; despite working in a rather limited soundscape, each song has a unique way of dealing with restricted elements and melancholic melodies.
Among several surprises on the album is a cover-version of ‘Rhubarb’ by Aphex Twin—the infamous brainchild of Richard D. James. This slow and strangely joyous track has only been minimally changed by the band, so all of its original brilliance remains intact (there is scarcely a way to make this song better anyway). Even more interesting is that the song perfectly fits and somehow enhances the mood present on Иней чёрного рассвета.
Darkeater also cover a song from another depressive black metal band in ‘Suicide Winds’ by Veil, an American band. Now, there wouldn’t be much to say about that, since the track blends perfectly into the album and is obviously a fitting choice for a cover. However, one has to mention that Veil is a duo which has, at least in the past, been known to play with far-right symbols and lyrics. Nevertheless, it seems that Darkeater have chosen this song solely for its artistic merit.
These covers also bring a different aspect of the band to light. The music of Darkeater is very strongly affected by the art of their peers. Every now and then, one begins to wonder whether they have heard a passage in a slight variation before or whether a specific theme is just common in a genre to the point of becoming a cliché. It would be unnatural for any debut album to not sound like the various bands who have inspired the artist, but Darkeater have to be especially careful since they decided to utilize two cover songs to fill out their album.
Despite all the merits of Иней чёрного рассвета—it really is a beautifully crafted depressive black metal album—these two gentlemen need to put some distance between them and their favourite artists in order to craft a suitable followup. The first album is a valuable contribution to the collection of every fan of the genre, but the next one should aim to have a unique artistic vision.
01) Скоро гроза…
02) Дождь мой свидетель
03) Зов мёртвых звёзд
04) Без воли к жизни
05) Suicide Winds (cover version of Veil)
06) Rhubarb (cover version of Aphex Twin)
07) Чертоги опустошения
08) Блики прошлого