Review Summary: A prime example of pushing the envelope without sacrificing integrity
The stylistic differences from one end of the black metal spectrum to the other will never cease to surprise; from the raw cacophony of sound Burzum is capable of creating, right through to the spacey ambience of Kataxu, and even images of the Scottish hillside evoked by Saor earlier in 2014. The sheer breadth and variety to be found in the genre is something that could never be expected from its humble beginnings, and yet there are still artists who whittle away at their own niche, whose sound cannot be replicated. Darkspace are one of these bands. While early albums undoubtedly shared similarities to Paysage d’Hiver (solo project of Wintherr), they have slowly moved away from that derivative sound and forged their own sound, culminating in their 2008 opus Darkspace III
. 6 years later, we come to Darkspace III I
, and while following up an opus will always be a difficult task, they have continued to push the envelope further and outdone themselves once again.
For every step forward taken between II
, Darkspace III I
takes another step forward here. The production has improved, with individual instruments being more discernible without damaging the dense mix that holds together the atmosphere. The musical palette has widened even further; unexpectedly upbeat bass opens the album before the cold layers of keyboard and guitar bury it, flighty electronics weave through the background 15 minutes into ‘4.19’. There is a reduced emphasis on shrieks in exchange for a greater concentration of growled vocals, and the riffs that lent variety to III
make their return here, featuring more prominently and often driving the album forward. The album still feels like a cold descent into a black hole, but there is far more diversity here. While this weakens the atmosphere from the crushing bleakness found in III
, it makes this a far easier listen, a more accessible entry point to the band’s sound and shows the band staving off any signs of stagnation. While this can be an especially difficult task in atmospheric music, here is a stellar example of how to shake things up without alienating fans.
The heavier presence of riffs is complemented by the more abrupt arrival of ambient passages. Several of these passages also contain heavy breathing samples (11min into ‘4.18’ or the close of ‘4.20’, which even features discernible words quoted at the end of the review), and this induces a greater feeling of panic, doubling up on the claustrophobic atmosphere of previous albums to make up for the minor hit it took when adding more variety. This conscious inclusion is a clear indication that Darkspace are maturing as artists, and while this is conceivably the limit to which their style can take them, only time will tell what they are yet capable of producing.
By pushing their own boundaries, Darkspace have ensured they don’t lose relevancy in the black metal scene. The unique niche they have carved for themselves is still unquestionably theirs, and all the more important as increasingly diverse artists come to the forefront. In a year overflowing with standout black metal releases, Darkspace III I
stands at the top of the pile as one of the most impressive albums of the year and another brilliant chapter in the bands history.
“I found the hatch. I got the airlock status display panel here.
There’s no lights... No power...
We’re going in...”