Review Summary: Breathe in, breathe out.
I’ll admit it, I was one of those not convinced by Humanity’s Last Breath’s 2019 piece (and completely unfamiliar with anything released by the band before it), but Abyssal
did showcase a few glimmering moments. Namely, the album brought together the band’s nonchalant tendency to bring technical tropes to deathcore stereotypes providing what could later be considered as a ‘growing’ record. Moving forward, Välde
has capitalized on all those little features found in their previous release; increasing levels of atmosphere, technicality and a production to match the band’s expansive reaches. Välde
is a staple for the heavy mainstream in 2021 and a fitting title that loosely translates to reign
told a tale of two halves (meaning the album lost most of its steam as it progressed past the belly), Välde
is comparatively cohesive and the band’s energy stays consistent from the opener, “Dödsdans” to the closer less than an hour later, “Vittring”. To summarize why Välde
is so successful in such a guitar orientated genre, we need to look at the album’s atmosphere. Trilling chords float absently around the thick, ringing chords of opener, “Dödsdans”, snaking their way through bludgeoning riffs towards “Glutton”. The percussive blasting cuts through the near-Meshuggah soundscape, avoiding most of the time changes and polyrhythms that would come with such a comparison. Still, there’s a sense of density that roars through the album’s opening sections. Deep death growls punch through riffs and mix, occasionally teetering on the edge of mind-numbing deathcore plainness, but there’s enough tempo changes and atmospheric swings to maintain an interest. In moving from the standard to double time (as well as those completely necessary) half-timed grooves the atmosphere quietly takes over - an entity just lurking in the shadows, unseen but felt.
“Descent” in itself, is a curveball. Yes, all the usual tropes of a heavy deathcore record dominate its beginning - but it’s the sheer atmospheric drive that transforms an apocalyptic bridge into a breakdown-led verse section. There’s no minimal amount of groove here, but for the band’s use of atmosphere the riffs actually come second, an integral part of a soundscape rather than the dominating factor. In this way Välde
is unmistakably modern. “Dehumanize” however takes a slightly more traditional approach to the genre’s wider stereotypes, and as such, is the new album’s least interesting track. That’s probably judgmental, but Humanity’s Last Breath do better exploring the more modern side of the genre than they do sticking to an a-typical formula. “Dehumanize”, like “Hadean” simply goes through the motions, carrying the listener to the likes of “Tide” where the group’s standards return to the modern focus, progression intact.
Occasionally, Humanity’s Last Breath uses instrumental pieces as spacers. “Väldet” is one example of an instrumental track done right. Where Abyssal
would throw these spacers in willy-nilly, Välde
uses this feature sparingly and to great effect. “Väldet” takes the central theme of atmosphere and unbridled heaviness and presents it to the listener...guttural roars need not apply.
unleashes it’s everything on their 2021 record, but there’s still the occasional misstep and genre back-peddling that even the group’s better uses of atmosphere can’t fasten to the band’s larger soundscape. If Välde
is the beginnings of an empire
, Humanity’s Last Breath is well past the foundations of brick and stone—ceilings are already being put in place. If, like me, you thought Abyssal
missed on a few opportunities, Välde
is the second chance you’ve been waiting to give.