Review Summary: A journey through ominous dreams.
A song on a metal album titled “Shred by Shred” seems a little too
on the nose. It’s the sort of tongue-in-cheek name that mayhap a power metal record would have, but on a blackened death endeavor that centers around prose of “human ambition and greed… and how feelings of restlessness, disconnection and cold isolation permeate the modern world,” attempts at humor are questionable. We get it, bands have guitars, they shred, they riff, they do the metal thing
. The irony of it all? Poland’s Cursebinder is not an act focused on charismatic virtuosity and furious, fast-tempo forays--debut disc Drifting
is about as far removed as possible from that realm of songwriting, instead emphasizing an approach that focuses on making an ethereal, gentle ambiance amidst melancholic instrumentals. There’s an intimacy to the quartet’s music that emerges from its careful, melodic nature, and how their arrangements seem to (appropriately) drift through dreamlike environments, skating by clouds through the starry twilight sky. Characterized by elegant tones and cascading electronics, the Kraków crew’s premiere LP harmoniously assembles its inspirations to craft a uniquely immersive experience.
None of this is to say Cursebinder are incapable of inducing rigorous headbanging--the aforementioned “Shred by Shred” is a wonderful mid-tempo rocker, though its success depends more on an unrelenting rhythm section and piercing melodies than pure riff power. The appeal of Drifting
lies in its post-metal leanings, which are encapsulated by the prominent synth contributions and the group’s concentration on polished, emotive timbres. The title track is an ideal synthesis of these concepts in action, developing from foreboding, dissonant riffing into intermittent strikes of blast beats and tremolos, establishing a push-and-pull between restraint and an underlying anxious energy--a lurking desire to lash out via furious instrumentation. Offsetting this is a sudden descent into quiet as the chime of the synths creeps in, allowing tension to rise in an eerie interlude before bubbling over in an explosive melodic riff and thunderous percussion. The synths sweep into the front of the attack, merging with the guitars into a singular force as caustic harsh vocals clash against them, guiding the song’s meticulous build-up towards a satisfying conclusion.
Rather than crushing skulls, therefore, the Polish collective aim to hypnotize, to bring a listener under the spell of their heavily atmospheric, slight psychedelic delivery. It’s a carefully textured approach, and an immersive, shoegaze-influenced production assists in accentuating the misty ambiance permeating through each track. Much in the same way groups a la An Abstract Illusion or In Mourning evoke emotional responses via climactic buildups and delicate guitar tones, Cursebinder relay their narratives through lush compositions structured around post-rock crescendos, a reserved writing style, and elongated journeys punctuated by fluctuations in tension. Even at its most aggressive, such as the comparatively violent proceedings of “No Dreams,” with biting synth tones and winding guitars jostling for space in a chaotic battle, Drifting
has a certain gracefulness to its vibrant soundscapes. Buoyed by its otherworldly synth work, Cursebinder’s first full release is an amazing exhibition of entrancing, blackened melodies, and one of the year’s more distinctive offerings.