Tech Death Thursday: Shadow in the Darkness
I’m excited as hell for today’s band, so let’s cut right to the chase.
Hearing every new album by every band every single week is a double-edged sword with horrendous imbalances. You know as well as I do that the majority of bands could be considered average at best, and that’s on a good week. Putting those lists together is an absolute slog at times, but every once in awhile, I find a band I’ve never heard of that blows me away straight away; such is the case with Shadow in the Darkness, a Greek tech death band that just released their first full-length album last week.
Shadow in the Darkness isn’t a new band, as it turns out; they’ve been around since the twilight of 2009 and first put out an EP in 2014. Arcanum Experimentia Praetiosum, above, is one of those albums that really takes the “death” part of “tech death” to heart- it’s technical to be sure, but it’s not as busy as a lot of their contemporaries. It feels a lot like older Decapitated in that sense, if not necessarily having a one-to-one sound profile with them. Parts of “The Sanatorium” feel like lost The Faceless riffs with some Cryptopsy-Lite splashes of dissonance, and “Sylvan Totem” goes full-on tech with nods to Necrophagist and Obscura, along with a passage that feels eerily like a portent of tech’s current blackened propensities. It’s a fun EP in its own right, and I’m glad I went back to check it out, but the real reason we’re talking about them today is their latest release.
Erstwhile Befell is pure tech death insanity. “Interdisciplinary Sectarianism” was the first track I heard, and I was immediately taken by the incredibly fast, incredibly tight tremolo picking and perfect legato flourishes. And that harmonized slide fill? Oh man. The speed and fury of this band’s music is impressive, no doubt, but it’s tempered by impeccable control and thoughtful songwriting; it’s easy to follow, saving most of the extra-noodly parts for fills and transitions, and the slick production is pretty easy on the ears.
What really gets me about this is the album’s atmosphere; Arcanum Experimentia Praetiosum was a souped-up death metal album dwelling in the lower sonic register, but Erstwhile Befell is alien and unsettling. It hit me pretty quickly that this is what The Faceless would sound like today if they had continued refining the sound they created on Planetary Duality rather than going “prog” and letting Michael Keene plumb the depths of his ass with his face. The tight start-stop tremolo picking and syncopated grooves in certain sections speak of some Soreption influence (not unlike their similarly Faceless-influenced brethren The Zenith Passage), and some truly staggering lead guitar work brings further flair to each composition.
Oh, but that’s not all. Subtle touches of synth, usually a staccato string voice, helps accent some of the trickier parts that might have otherwise been lost in the mix, and it’s occasionally used for a more atmospheric effect. This, combined with a tendency towards big, beautiful chords, reminds me of Inanimate Existence’s A Never-Ending Cycle of Atonement in the best way. Few tech death bands have pulled off that aura of menacing mysticism in any meaningful way, but it’s out in full force here, and it’s yet another reason to sink your teeth into this album.
Erstwhile Befell is one of the best tech death albums I’ve heard all year; it’s fast and intense, but not out of control. I don’t really have anything bad to say about it- the lyrics get a little word-salady, I guess? Hell, even the cover art is on point. In any case, if you’ve been starving for some prime, unabashed technical death metal, give Shadow in the Darkness your attention. Erstwhile Befell is out now via Sliptrick Records, and you can give the band your regards on Facebook. That’s all I’ve got for now, so until next time,