Review Summary: Old meets new.Damp Chill of Life
is a poignant slab of cohesively crafted atmospheric black metal, using the DNA from Burzum’s earlier works to form the bulk of this nihilistic and oppressive soundscape. With that, it’s fairly easy to gather an idea of what to expect from this band’s third effort. Second-wave black metal is followed, almost, to the letter; be it the haunting guitar melodies, lo-fi fuzz, reverb-y drums, or the genre’s signature buzzsaw guitar tones – there’s a real sense of impassioned admiration for 90s Norwegian black metal here. None does implement enough contemporary traits that add flourishes of colour to the record – namely the juxtaposition of raw production-meets-beautiful clarity for certain aspects of the album’s overall sound, but by and large this sounds like something from the Hvis lyset tar oss
era of Burzum. It’s hardly a criticism either, as one of the biggest takeaways from listening to Damp Chill of Life
is its densely distinct, foreboding atmosphere. There’s a frozen glaze over the dank instrumentation that goes hand in hand with the excellent album art that accompanies the record: the piano keys are mournfully played throughout and serve as the winsome dynamic to the mainstay grime and decay that burrows underneath the songs.
Nothing on here is particularly original, but it’s the kind of record that displays the band’s capabilities and worth as writers – making a lot of what they lend from the pioneers their own. The lamenting wails and shrill screams aren’t quite up there with the genre’s greats, but varied vocal approaches – a la “It’s Painless to Let Go” which trades screams for melody-tinged croons – add spice where they’re needed the most, and the yin-yang of the clean and raw production is used pretty effectively as well. “A Chance I’d Never Have” is the finest example of this, forming a correlative bond between tranquil stillness – made possible by the song’s vulnerably bare acoustic guitar – and explosive rage; the song utilizes both emotions to their fullest, and when it comes to the crescendos of the piece, they always feel cathartic. But the standout for the track is ultimately in the way it has been recorded: a handling best summed up as beauty and the beast, as the rhythm section rides on prosaic genre tropes while the layers of acoustic and clean electric guitar attempt to seize the darkness these ominous explosions emit. It’s a bloody great closing track, and it encompasses all of the album’s best qualities. There’s a lot of atmospheric metal out there these days, but None manage to grab the alluring spark artists like Burzum, Agalloch and Summoning have when they release music. It’s not a new standard for black metal, but Damp Chill of Life
definitely makes you muse and appreciate how far the genre has come by the time you’ve finished listening to it.
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A
ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE: https://hypnoticdirgerecords.bandcamp.com/album/damp-chill-of-life