Premiere: The Drowning – Prometheus Blinded
Welsh death/doom group The Drowning has slowly been building their name and refining their style for 16 years(!) and five full-lengths, and The Radiant Dark seems to be garnering especially positive responses already. So if you’re like me and this is your first dance with the Cardiff-five, waste no more time before diving in.
Trying to find a balance between aggression and rancor isn’t unheard of in the corners of death/doom inhabited by the band’s more melodic ilk. But managing to simultaneously carry the two, to bring out the poignancy, even at the most violent point of a composition’s life, is a feat much rarer. And this is where The Drowning comes in. Quickly familiarizing myself with some of their previous output shows that the idea is not entirely new to them, but The Radiant Dark takes the band further away from the direct sphere of influence of the Peaceville Three and brings their own idea of dynamic death/doom to another level.
One of the bigger leaps comes in the form of arrangements. Even when the band studies a set of motifs for a longer time, the small things, like adding or removing a double bass beat, keep a constant sense of movement. Matt Small’s refined grasp of his range as a vocalist and a more thought-out use of his highs and lows, as well as using some layering, make the vocal arrangements an additional item of intrigue, going beyond the rhythm instrument they’re so often reduced to in extreme metal.
The songwriting has been honed to a new edge as well. The transitions are rarely abrupt, and when they are, they come off as if the abruptness of it all was deliberate. More often though, they come through a solo, a change in the melody or bringing back a deviation of an earlier motif. The structures don’t follow the most predictable routes either; a blackened tremolo riff waiting to burst may appear briefly but disappear quickly by way of a scorching melodeath riff before re-appearing as an altered version over a slower beat. Sometimes a more somber, quiet section will appear, but instead of a goth-romantic violin-stricken reminiscence of woe, or a bare calm before the storm, these moments are often composed in a way that wouldn’t sound out of place on a prog- or post-metal record.
Naturally, this meticulous attention to detail has been expanded to the production as well. Fairly organic and sonorous, the instruments are kept clear and separate: the grievous leadwork cuts through the crushing wall of rhythm guitars and bass, faint chords of keys are used here and there for an ethereal effect (but stay strictly in the back), and the vocals sit firmly on top but never dominate the soundscape or drown the instruments beneath them.
The quiet and somber sections are given enough space, and they don’t come off as loud as the heaviest riff on the record, as is the case far too often with other bands. Particular attention seems to have been paid to the drum sound, as each piece of the kit comes though balanced and un-muddled, yet somehow the snare hits are so heavy that I find myself blinking with each strike from the sheer power of the sound.
The song we have for you today is “Prometheus Blinded,” the album’s shortest cut. Preferring to move in mid tempo rather than trudge through the more agonizing landscapes of doom, it nevertheless shows off the band’s signature lead-work and gives a decent grasp into the inner workings of their dynamic style. At first alternating between a simple headbanging doom-chug of the highest order and a piercing melody, it later develops into a flat-out thrash riff interspersed with a nimbler lead and eventually a woeful solo leading back towards the beginning; it then charges one more time at the listener with another thrashy riff taken straight out of an old Gothenburg scene song. It all ties together beautifully and effortlessly, making for a very good showcase of the band’s abilities and yet leaving much of The Radiant Dark still undiscovered.
The Radiant Dark comes out on November 8th on Transcending Obscurity. Keep up with additional news regarding them on either the band’s or the label’s Facebook sites and check out their Bandcamp from below for an additional track and pre-orders.