Review Summary: A new look at black metal, employing extremely blended sounds as the main means of communicating the ideas of the album to the listener.
Darkspace are one of the bands that are active in the black metal scene and have a pretty strong following among most fans, with few not agreeing with the overwhelmingly positive reviews and critiques that this band has gotten for their first two albums. That being said they are also not necessarily a very traditional black metal band, nor are they easy to listen to and understand.
I have had both CDs almost two years, but never felt quite as drawn to them as most people who also liked bands like Paysage d'Hiver (the man behind PdH is also in Darkspace). Recently however, I have given my whole attention to these two cds, and both have left a unique impression on me. The music is in essence a mix of two genres, black metal and dark ambient. The blend makes it hard to define this band as purely black metal since only half this album actually has guitars and drums on it. The three songs are also extremely long and should be viewed as one whole piece.
This brings me to say that the music reminds me of jazz in a way. The compositions are structured in a way that makes me think that this cd relies heavily on improvised ideas since riffs almost never recur and there is almost no structure, definitely nothing reminiscent of verses and choruses. It seems that, like jazz, there is a set amount of bars over which one theme is explored, and then the form changes and a new idea is produced and developed. This idea is encouraged by the fact that the drums were programmed on this cd, and so therefore there must have been a set structure over which the musicians recorded.
As for the rest of the cd, it is obviously not like jazz at all. It isn't even like most black metal relying less on guitars than it does on keyboards and the blend of sound created by the various instruments. The songs have two basic types of feels. They have sections that are fast tremolo picked passages of guitar, but the notes are not distinguishable. The guitars are solely there to create a wall of sound, against which the keyboards are juxtaposed. The keyboards play long eerie (and exclusively minor) chords that indicate little awareness of being in any key. The other type of feel is a slow mid tempo feel that is introduced at the beginning of Dark 2.8. The guitars play long sustained chords over the drums (pretty low in the mix as they serve only as time) and the synth plays less an accompaniment than an opposing set of chords meant to create a very uneasy dissonant feel.
The music fits the theme of dark space well, the music is void of any themes of light or hope, not one second of the music even implies a major tonality. Instead the music creates the image of a dark void, of emptiness which one is lulled into through the monotonous nature of the music. Monotony usually works against black metal bands (who try to use it but repeat average riffs to boredom), but here it works for the band, who aren't concerned with repeating passages, but rather with creating a consistent drone, or an intense attack of sound. The song titles also aptly have no name, but rather seem simply like file names or something indexed by a program giving a bit of the futuristic flair that is also implied by samples in the music. The vocals are done by all three members, but are relatively low in the mix, and are indiscernible. I actually wonder the vocals even have lyrics, or whether the vocals are rather adding another layer of sound to the music giving it another dimension.
Recommended for fans of Vinterriket, Paysage d'Hiver, Nordlicht, and even more drone/doom like music such as Nadja, which also builds energy and themes and has little to do with actually melody/harmony or verse chorus structures.