Review Summary: A dependable, yet eclectic offering of astute dissonant metal, now infused with powerful and absolute industrial elements, brings a new chapter and name- after the close of another that just started to get its wings.
To say that this was anything "expected" is a qualifier that needs just a brief layout. This Netherlands group, housed by the notable and now-household distribution label Season of Mist, is the band formed from the now "gone-but-not-forgotten" Dodecahedron, who then, included members of Exivious, and the late auteur and vocalist Michiel Eikenaar, of whom unexpectedly passed from cancer in 2019. By then, the band had finally released a highly anticipated follow-up to their applauded 2012 debut "Dodecahedron" after a five year wait- titled "Kwintessens"; which rightly was marking of a progression in their sound and experimentation, had caught some new listeners' attention, but also split opinion on where others felt on how their sound should develop in the future, as guitarist and songwriter Michel Nienhuis began collecting ideas for a new record.
What became of Autarkh, in essence, is where Dodecahedron, unfortunately ended. As stated by Nienhuis, many of these ideas formed the basis of this new incarnation, with "variation coming by way of the beats, lyrics and vocals"- (there is a caveat here to which I will return to momentarily); and it is easy to see how the style of the previous band is transfered over, and in some places, entirely left in tact. It would be entirely harmless to say that a fan of the prior band will enjoy much of what is on display here, but more importantly, are the differences of which work to expand the musical landscape of the musicians involved that offer entirely new territory for those familiar of the band, and even the genre itself.
If what one remembers of the previous outing, was the continued (and somewhat elongated) atmospheric progression and experimentation amongst the dissonant-but-refined stylings of black/death metal riffing and vocal callings, they wouldn't be misled. But where this takes the fork in the road, sonically, is applying that same atmospheric continuation, and having it translated into large industrial backdrops. There may have been a word in the previous paragraph that stood out to a common listener; that word being "beats"; rather than the typical modifiers describing the percussive elements in this style of dissonant death or black metal, such as "rhythm" or "tempo." But see, this is the most apt description available when imbibing about the all-important percussive instrument amid this brand of music, because as the start to the second track "Turbulence" will show, a thirty-five second, standard blasting fare complete with an accompanying dissonant harmony then immediately opens up to an electronic industrial *beat* set behind coarse, yet tonally efficient, dire vocals, and drops the listener into a new realm of downtuned experience. It's industrial (in almost every sense of the word) black-metal crossed and mixed with some angular and dissonant riffing, but I assure you, the results are much more friendly, likeable, and impressive than what one would think than just with the words alone. For what it's worth, after the initial 1:22 introduction track, what is on display beginning in the second track, is what you can expect throughout, but that by no means should insinuate that what follows isn't varied, placed and then subsequently replaced in a myriad of intriguing ways to keep one wholly engaged to it's conclusion.
If one felt that the final outing done by the previous outfit on "Kwintessens" was a little haphazard or split in terms of their degree to atmospheric devotion, this may have listeners themselves somewhat stuck between sure/not sure on this direction, but for a different reason. Personally, I find the combination of a literal interpretation of industrial metal in some of its most definite, pure and driving ways, from pulsing groovy tempos to thunderous electronic crashes and bass boosts, actually integrated in with the style of black metal Dodecahedron are known for, to be a missing element one may have never realized was needed. While some of the most technical aspects of the guitar stylings may be less prominent than previous iterations, the chaotic nature of those serpentine, Deathspell Omega-inspired rip your head off passages, are undoubtedly still there and with the interweaving between rhythm and style, appear even in more vital fashion, and perhaps with more vitriol than before; with examples being the introduction of track 5 "Introspectrum", a particularly gnarly section about 3 minutes into Lost to Sight, and the near entirety of "Clouded Aura".
Besides the incredibly large influence of industrial metal on the percussive end of things, the next and most obvious new addition is among the vocals, now done by previous Dodecahedron guitarist and main songwriter Michel Nienhuis. Similar to the guitar and atmospherics that were present in both the previous band and now this one, the vocals are one of the elements that help carry over that continuity of the band, from one project to another. It was stated earlier by Nienhuis that one of the changes in terms of approach with this band, was amongst the vocals, and again this is true, as is found throughout the progression of the record with some very interesting and varied vocal stylings through the entire course of it's length, but one thing that is also there, is how eerily similar to Eikenaar's they are in many places (a great thing). Some may remember some of his tortured cries on the Dodecahedron albums, and I would hope that many are pleased to know there is almost a connective tissue or deep resonance running through the vocals of Nienhuis which very effectively mirror and portray the same timbre of agony and anguish when used for some of the more relishing moments of instrumental prowess on the album. The other aspect of the vocals that are present, include (in more sparingly usage) some clean singing, a few moments that border almost on slower rapping (when in conjunction with the industrial beats), and some stuff that really resembles Burton Bell of Fear Factory acclaim, particularly on the track Introspectrum. I'd say that just in the vocal department, it's about a 50/50 split in the melding of the familiar and the new, which is actually an appreciative percentage considering the successful result of such a debut; along with still maintaining a somewhat "signature" sound musically that has been the junction between vocals and guitar when looking behind at Dodecahedron. The track "Lost to Sight" alone, sounds almost like a direct sequel to the track "Tilling the Human Soil" from the previous affair and is all the better for it. If there were any who were wondering just how perhaps a band such as Dodecahedron could further develop their style as a way to set themselves apart from the growing trend in dissonant metal, which has in the recent years, since sprung up all around overnight like a bed of wild weeds, I would urge those to consider what is on offer here, for it is certainly new territory. Straight industrial/electronic beats pulsing and jamming out hardened grooves, with flavorful flourishes of your traditional-kit stuff such as blasts and double bass all mixed in and between to be fully integrated in the songs themselves, make for a very interesting, seamless technique that adds something completely new for the band, and perhaps in the cross-sectional genre of the scene itself.
A few words that come to mind, when considering the shape of this album, are along the lines of primordial, or fluid. One could even say molten, or elemental. Each of these are characterized by the identity impressed upon it, with the title "Form In Motion". We won't know what the third Dodecahedron album would have looked like, or what it's potential leanings would have been had Eikenaar stayed with us, but we do know now, what a potential follow-up sound could have included. There is differentiation (within itself), deviation (from the norm), and deliberation (with purpose).
Lost to Sight