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Hopelessness Tempered: Post-Rock Melodies Talk Belgian Black Metallers Down off the Ledge

Drawn into Descent

Drawn into Descent

Antwerp-based Drawn into Descent‘s debut makes no secrets of its modus operandi. The solemn hitching of black metal to post-rock as statement of intent is unequivocally signaled in the opening seconds of ‘Prelude’. Introverted acoustic guitars are strummed morosely while, as accompaniment, a storm rages, rain fills the stereo field, and the mood is set. Opening proper, ‘Elude’ goes vividly further in exemplifying the union as hopeless shrieks meet languidly beautiful guitar melodies which, in true post-rock fashion, seem to uncurl in detail while also being hypnotically repetitive. Lead guitarist Jason Verheulpen never so much as allows a single note to escape his grip that isn’t fizzing with emotion.

So far, everything ticks along reliably: ‘Elude’ is so beautiful a graft of soaring post-rock melodies (perhaps à la Mono) to the hollow-eyed scream of DSBM that the seams rarely show and it’s a smooth ride. However, in performing such sonic surgery, something is lost in the mix and one party clearly becomes dominant. For all the loneliness of vocal performances on tracks like ‘Pariah’, the feeling of absolute desolation is never quite achieved. The warm, sometimes teary-eyed melodies, which are genuinely capable of inducing shivers that are perhaps too close a companion Bart Dirickx‘s voice, never really allow him those stark, naked, and vulnerable moments that makes other DSBM bands a blend of discomfort and beauty. If anything, there’s too much beauty here. ‘Pariah”s most effective moments, as with other tracks, is when vocals and full-hearted guitars keen together, both shouting into the storm. However, it’s often the guitars who’re left to weave the magic after the initial bellow and, while this may suggest retraction or withdrawal on Dirickx’s part, we’re too damn entranced by the shimmering dazzelements to speculate.

Drawn into Descent | Credit: Michael Lombarts

Drawn into Descent | Credit: Michael Lombarts

Post-rock attracts a lot of flack for its reliance on predictable dynamic structures—a feature of the genre that works like a lot of electronic club music: tension and release. However, what with post-rock’s quiet-loud dichotomy verging on damaging stereotype (with much responsibility laid, probably quite fairly, at the door of Scottish band Mogwai) with the uninitiated, Drawn into Descent has done well to largely eschew or at least ration its easy impact by keeping a more traditional overall black metal structure to tracks (i.e. that relentlessly suffocating pace, that smothering sound). Yes, the starry-eyed guitars do provide ample breathing space from time to time, but these musicians are clearly well versed in the black arts, even if ever-competent drummer Vincent Verheulpen doesn’t always get a chance to really let rip quite as effectively as he could.

Will this reconcile the two genres harmoniously? Probably not, but it won’t harm the overall experiment. Much of the album flows together as one long suite, impressively swerving momentum-sapping denouements while lending the album a dreamy cohesion. While the climaxes tend to, inevitably, follow a comparable pattern which exposes the limited spectrum of ideas, no one could accuse Drawn into Descent of opting for a poor choice of initial ideas as they comfortably wring a lot of quality material from it. High quality of tunes aside, this is perhaps the album’s rather academic shortfall: It won’t raise many eyebrows in either scene, but if Drawn into Descent can find a way to magnify the DSBM elements and use the soaring post-rock structures as a grandiose delivery mechanism rather than aim for too-perfect a splice, then they may have something quite potent on their hands that transcends mere genre blending.

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Track List:

01) Prelude
02) Elude
03) Solitude
04) The Realm of Unbecoming
05) Perish
06) Gallows

Written by: Simon Gould
Label: Immortal Frost Productions (Belgium) / IFP030 / CD, Digital
Atmospheric Black Metal / Post-Rock