Review Summary: Post-black metal steps out from under Deafheaven’s pink-and-orange shadow.
Metal has spent the last few years splintering into ever-smaller sub-sub-subgenres to satiate an audience that craves variety and innovation, and we seem to be reaching the point where each genre needs to begin justifying its existence, or else fade into obscurity. Post-black metal leapt ahead in this race for relevance with its breakout record, Deafheaven’s Sunbather
. With its gorgeous and innovative use of black metal, post-rock, and shoegaze elements, Sunbather
rocketed to the forefront of the metal and indie music scenes, and its surprisingly wide appeal earned Deafheaven a substantial and lasting fanbase. However, post-black metal has done little to evolve since 2013. Most PBM acts that have emerged in the past few years were intent on aping Deafheaven’s signature sound, and while the results ranged from mediocre (Ghost Bath) to beautiful (Numenorean), they seldom innovated. Even when a PBM act like Bosse-de-Nage seemed intent on breaking away from Deafheaven, Deafheaven still came up as a point of comparison in reviews and discussions. Thus, the album that revolutionized post-black metal has now set the main criterion for its legitimacy: Post-black metal needs to prove that it’s made up of more than Deafheaven and their analogs.
With that in mind, it’s time to discuss a post-black metal record that has nothing to do with Deafheaven: the self-titled sophomore album from Russian group Show Me a Dinosaur. The elements that Show Me a Dinosaur use to craft their sound are familiar, yet surprising. Opener “Rakev” begins with a crashing wave of black metal blast beats, then drops to a soft crawl and builds to a hurricane of frantic drums and anxious guitar chords reminiscent of Wake/Lift
. “Vjuga” follows a similar trajectory, transforming black metal elements into an even more apparent Rosetta homage, and the combination of influences crystallizes into Show Me a Dinosaur
’s prevailing emotional tone: unease. Whereas the most common note for post-black metal acts to strike is one of explicit catharsis, channeling a release of emotions through a pummeling cacophony until it comes out the other end as relief and hope, Show Me a Dinosaur build a subtler sense of unrest that ranges from a slight disquiet to downright dread. The album calms down considerably for post-rock dreamscapes “Lights” and “Gone,” and the nervous tone ostensibly fades from view. But it’s still there, in the back of the listener’s head, threatening to reawaken at any moment and interrupt the dream. That anxiety reemerges with a vengeance in closing track “Wojna,” a tense yet deliberate ten-minute build to a frantic climax teeming with desperation.
Show Me a Dinosaur
stands out as a novel approach to post-black metal that combines the subgenre’s typical parts to create a unique whole with a distinct, memorable, affective tone. It stands alongside Astronoid’s Air
and Alcest’s Kodama
as proof that, in 2016, PBM is finally stepping out from under Deafheaven’s pink-and-orange shadow. Only time will tell whether these albums receive the attention they deserve and cement the legacy of PBM as a legitimate genre. But Show Me a Dinosaur
has certainly helped unveil the genre’s potential.