Review Summary: Bewildering in all the wrong ways.
Though it’s as disorienting as it presumably intends to be, Dodecahdron’s Kwintessens
comes across as far too cliché to be genuinely unsettling. It takes the splintered musicality of Deathspell Omega and merges it with an aesthetic that falls somewhere between that of Portal and Behemoth, only to execute ideas with none of the conviction you would expect from the aforementioned. If pictured in a different medium, it’s as if the band attempted to pen their incarnation of Deathspell Omega’s sound – using rulers, compasses and protractors – but eschewed free-hand technique and all the creative idiosyncrasies that come with it.
I’d stop before calling Dodecahdron’s take on their influences “one-dimensional” – pun absolutely
intended – but I’ll happily cede that it’s shallow. To add insult to injury, the band tries to compensate for their lack of acumen by smothering their compositions with gratuitous bells-and-whistles. Dissonant synth pads, chimes and samples are frequently present to aid the core instrumentation, but they end up being distracting. The reasons behind their motivations become apparent very early on; the tumbling guitar lines that open “Tetrahedron - …” are peculiar and entertaining in their own right, but misguided in their presentation. Void of subtlety, they function more as a tactless jump scare than anything else. Thankfully, the song manages to find its feet around a third of the way through, after which a grinding tremolo riff surges forwards unperturbably, giving the song a sense of malice that it so desperately needed.
Lingering in the riff’s wake are leads very much in the vein of the song’s opening, but the way in which they’re utilised is infinitely more effective: pushed into the periphery of your awareness, like an apparition of a dubious nature. At this point, Kwintessens
begins to pick up. Despite its length, “Hexahedron - …” is curiously linear, which isn’t an issue given that this style of metal can be so uninviting. Riffs and drum patterns are repeated sufficiently so as to etch their way into your immediate memory, but their musical make-up is so alien that it’s seldom possible to become acclimatised to their presence. The song’s thunderous finale is curiously reminiscent of that in Gorguts’ “Forgotten Arrows”, only with a Behemoth-esque mode of theatricality thrown into the mix. Obscured but still present, what sounds like a choir vying to be heard adds a rapture-like atmosphere, seamlessly tying into the album’s supernatural themes in the process.
However, while Dodecahedron show flashes of brilliance here and there, they can’t seem to shirk the compositional deadweight that brings their music down. It would be harsh to label the central interlude as such, as the motifs throughout could function as cruxes for whole songs, but its inclusion simply doesn’t feel warranted. A lack of auditory respite in addition to its predictable placement renders it a futile endeavour – a sentiment which is compounded once “Octahedron - …” announces its presence. Strange, angular riffs burst forth in a manner that a preceding calm would’ve greatly complimented, but the strength of the riffs themselves does well in mitigating a lost opportunity. Ironically, the middle of the track is substantially more forgiving than its predecessor, paving the way for the guitarists to fiddle with pre-existing ideas and ways in which to apply them. The result is quite compelling.
The eponymous “Dodecahedron – An Ill-Defined Air of Nothingness” slows things down a tad, coming in the form of two fluid crescendos and spacing out Kwintessens’
second half. However the band’s sense of pace and sonic nuance is undermined by a lack of creative lucidity, which is a drawback that becomes ever more obvious as the album trundles towards its end. Dodecahedron, notwithstanding all their strengths as musicians, simply don’t know what they want their music to be, which is a qualm that stands to reason once applied to their song of the same name. It shifts from serenity, to marching grooves, to tribal-esque drone, to wispy ambient soundscapes but then proceeds to assault you with the band’s standard affair of dissonant, metallic sound barrages. There is little in the way of connectivity between each sequence, and the end product is but a bewildering mess, desperately trying not to cave under the weight of its creators’ ambitions.
Having fallen victim to a slippery slope, Kwintessens
is virtually unsalvageable by the arrival of “Finale”, which is neither a finale in chronology nor spirit. It’s so flagrant in its use of C-grade horror platitudes that any enthusiasm I could’ve otherwise had for the closer, “Icosahedron – The Death of Your Body”, is reduced to a silent begging for the album’s seemingly unapproachable conclusion. This isn’t to say Dodecahedron are incapable – as there are instances here to prove the contrary – but that they appear to lack perception, throwing too many ill-assorted ideas at their music and simply hoping that they work. Perhaps with more discretion, they’ll put together something great, but Kwintessens
isn’t it. Watch this space, tentatively.