Posted on December 14, 2013 AT 06:07pm
Hoodie weather has now become “Layers, gloves and Coats” weather… or just hoodie weather with snow all over. For some of us it’s a time to be upbeat, enjoy the snow and get ready for Christmas. For some others it’s another moment that needs a particular kind of soundtrack. One a bit more moody and thoughtful. Enter Progressive Black Metal & Post Rock band Clad in Darkness. A band based out of Chicago, Illinois that has existed since about 1999 and previously put out an EP titled “Amidst Her Shadows”. The album featured raw production and some of the standard black metal fare, but also included progressive passages that switched up to prettier moods. In a sense coming off as sort of “Emperor meets Opeth and Agalloch” sound with a hint of Kayo Dot to taste. Often throwing in dreamy, clean passages and bluesy solo work which kept things from ever feeling particularly monotonous. In their full length Decathect, they continue and expand upon these ideas. Throwing in more wandering post rock and enhancing the entire package with cleaner production.
The album itself features seven tracks, two from the previous EP and five new ones that weren’t on any other albums but were played live often. The two tracks from the EP have been restructured a bit, featuring different intros and extensions on certain parts giving you more than just a re-hash of the same songs you’ve heard before. Foreward starts with a clean intro that wasn’t previously there and Revelries & Silence is played a bit faster. The newer tracks that were only performed live have a nice polish to them, showcasing more of their affinity for progression and post-rock wandering. Nepenthe is a good example of this, going from rather aggressive and dark passages to prettier acoustic and clean parts. It brings up a sort of mental image of a sunrise over a snowy field, coming from the black and cold parts of a song to lighter, warmer, more major-y sounding bits. It’s a nice sort of vibe that feels reminiscent of Agalloch with it’s stylistic changes and it’s droning lead guitars. The song goes through a series of ups and downs until it reaches a gigantic plateau which just feels fitting.
That’s one of the major things this album has going for it considering that the songs run from 6 to 16 minutes long. Long songs have even more pressure to maintain a proper pacing to keep from sounding like a chore to listen to. CID doesnt waste your time leaving you to ponder endless soundscapes and instead, pepper tracks with dynamics to keep things interesting. There are moments where they kind of push it and some songs might not be as favorable as others, but they still entertain. The fourth track Undulations hits with these jazzy drums and some subdued clean vocals buried in reverb just before kicking it into high gear with blastbeats and black metal riffing. Deluge is probably the most meandering song out of most of them, flowing with a pleasant sounding clean passage with the drummer jamming alongside it. The song carries an Alcest-like vibe throughout, without much in the way of vocals. It’s a nice cool-off period before the album batters you with Forestall which starts off with a barrage of blastbeats and fiercely dark riffs. It’s an easier favorite perhaps even more than Undulations because it showcases the strength that they can throw into such a comparatively short track. Ending the album is Unrest which is the longest track at 16 minutes and honestly, it’s a definitive album closer. Almost with a similar spirit to Daylight Dies’ closing track “Dismantling Devotion”.
Instrumentally the band comes off with a vibe that can be described as purposeful, organic and solid. They don’t spend a lot of time with flash and flare and while the album does get jammy, it isn’t excessive.. Each song simply plays out like a chapter, constantly moving forward and not relying on a lot of catchiness or traditional song structure. As a band they flow together quite nicely for the most part, while not sounding as tight as say, Nachtmystium, they do keep it together in a way that doesn’t sound or feel robotic or extremely messy. There are some flaws involving the drums, particularly at the beginning of Foreward where the blastbeats sort of stumble a bit and in some spots of the album where he gets jazzy, yet it feels like he’s in a hurry and it tends to make things awkward at times. It’s a bit odd, but not an absolute deal breaker. Still, when he nails it, Brian Rendina throws down quite well, showing off a complexity and flare that makes its presence known without getting in the way of the rest of the music. Production wise it’s clearly a step up from Amidst Her Shadows, featuring less of the raw “necro production” found in most bands just aping the second wave black metal sound. This does tend to take out some of the atmosphere but not in a way that ruins the immersion of the album. There are some spots where a more layered atmosphere would be nice, perhaps with layers of strings, mellotron… or an accordion. In some cases some reverb and delay would be nice just to help wet some of the really dry clean guitars. Outside of the dry clean guitars, which aren’t terrible, just dry; the rest of it just sounds awesome. Decathect features riffs that sound colourful and tone quality that is noisy while still sounding clear and pronounced enough to convey that subtlety well.
The drums sound great in terms of production, coming through clearly without being ridiculously drowned out. The kick drums have a bit of that triggered sound that helps cut through the mix but they also have that properly mic’d sound, so it isn’t like a typewriter in the background. The toms and snare could use a bit of “oomph” at times, but honestly, it’s not bad. Vocally, Casey sounds like he’s at the top of his game with these pained shrieks and smoldering low vocals. The only issue is that his spoken word parts and clean vocals feel a bit too soft when they come in to play their parts. As a conceptual album based on the Edith Wharton novel Ethan Frome, it seems a bit odd to kind of bury the part of the album that is supposed to carry on the concept. Listening to it as a concept album might not be ideal unless you have a lyric sheet available. The album itself doesn’t sound as if it were produced by a modern metal producer and in a way it benefits from that not sounding excessive or brickwall-ish… and the bass gets some love, actually coming through and being noticeable; which is great considering that bassist Chris Shive is no slouch.
Overall while the album has its dents, feeling a bit rushed and limited, it’s a well done album that is well worth a listen and more than worth the support they actually get. Given that this is their first full length and one with material that they’ve been playing for ages, it leaves me wanting to hear more of what they could possibly do, as there is plenty of potential in the work. It’s black metal, it’s post rock, it’s progressive and it gets a Strong 7 to light 8.
If you’ve had a chance to give it a listen, tell us what you think of it in the comments below!
Decathect is available for digital download and physical release via Bandcamp.
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