Review Summary: Denver's dissonant sleepwalkers once again roam the realms of despair, but now in less atmospheric grounds.
Of the dissonant vortex that emerged in the past decade, the debut album by Denver's Noctambulist was among those that excited me the most; not exactly for its originality but rather for its overwhelming dark ambiance, which pulled me into a dimension that is as disturbing as it is engaging. There's something inexplicably alluring about Atmospheres of Desolation
that puts it in a place of its own; somewhere close to stylistically nearby neighbors like Altarage or Ulcerate, yet at the same time sufficiently distant to acquire a distinct identity. That discordant personality, coupled with an enveloping oppressive atmosphere, shaped an auspicious first chapter that put Noctambulist on the map while creating anticipation about their upcoming installments.
The first thing that struck me about the single, 'Depletion', was the absence of the foggy ambiance featured on the previous release, as I considered it to be an essential part of the band's foundations. This aspect, combined with a more polished production and shrill high-pitched mastering, immediately suggested that The Barren Form
would take on a more crystalline aesthetic. We are, therefore, facing a different approach to sound engineering, which highlights the band's willingness to avoid creative loops, at least when it comes to sound design. Noctambulist, however, counterbalances this limpid chromatic by adding approximately ten minutes of instrumental ambiance, spread between the album's introduction, 'Exordium', and the ending of practically every song. This Schammasch-ish mystic layer present in tracks such as 'Depletion' and 'Dissolution' thus mirrors the emphasis the band places on its atmospheric surroundings, even when it takes a sonic detour.
Despite the aforementioned divergent sound approach, the band's style remains essentially unchanged, still relying on an overwhelming dissonant assault, mostly orbiting blast beat tempos and blackened tremolo picking, intertwined with dynamic power chords. Given the sharper production, the technical details are now more evident, namely the guitar intricacies and colossal drumming which reach their peak on 'Infinitesimal', the album's majestic highlight. Sean McConnell's vocals, even if less reverberated, still exude the same demented ferocity, lending the music a trademark aggressiveness that not only ties it to the previous release but also solidifies the band's personality. However, regardless of its pronounced character and undeniable songwriting prowess, there is a somewhat flat, one-dimensional feel to The Barren Form
, which neither the instrumental nuances nor the tempo contrasts manage to dissipate. A lack of atmosphere, I would say; an absence of invisible space in-between capable of conferring greater ambiance and drama to the outcome.
Two years after their first awakening, Denver's dissonant sleepwalkers once again roam the realms of despair, but now in less atmospheric grounds. This polished approach, while somehow creating contrast with the previous nightmare, prevents the band from moving into more surrealistic dimensions, where they naturally belong. The Barren Form
is thus an incomplete creature, which never found the suitable surroundings to develop to its fullest. This incompleteness, however, is not without its virtues, as it enhances both the lads' technical skills and creative irreverence, assuring us that their introspective, dark journey is far from over.