- Year 2017
- Genre Technical Death/Black Metal
- Country United States
- Label The Artisan Era
- Rating Very Good
Hailing from the country music haven of Nashville, Tennessee, Enfold Darkness obviously didn’t get the memo, because they’ve locked in a vicious, expansive sound that couldn’t be farther from cowboys and pickup trucks. Formed in 2005, the band is deliberate with their output. Their debut album Our Cursed Rapture appeared in 2009, and they’ve been ruminating on sophomore release Adversary Omnipotent for the ensuing eight years. It was time well spent, as the band’s impressive technicality, epic sense of melody, and high-minded sense of conceptual storytelling demand attention to detail.
A majority of the riffing is comprised of razor-sharp tremolo patterns that race and swarm like angry hornets, with just enough angular tech-death chugging to add variety. That’s not to say the album lacks dynamism. On the contrary, every song manages to be its own interesting and progressive journey, despite Enfold Darkness not being a “progressive metal” band in the strictest sense. Instead, this quality is due to a songwriting style that often approaches linear writing, with the album’s obviously complex and highly involved storyline delivered mainly in a pleasantly comprehensible rasp that manages to maintain a menacing presence despite the sci-fi audio-book quality of some of the lyrical content. To break up the potential monotony, gritty death growls and effects-laden, tyrannical spoken word sections add melodramatic effect to the proceedings.
The lush and shiny production makes room for meaty bass lines that writhe with a life of their own and touches of synth work that add a mildly symphonic impact. Greg Vance’s militaristic blasting and bass drum thundering create a solid rhythmic backbone that deftly underpins the band whether they are laying down mid-tempo poundings or furious, headlong rushes. For the most part, the album consists of the latter, as this is first and foremost a technical extravaganza. The twisting, innovative guitar melodies of Elijah Whitehead and James Turk are a huge draw throughout the record, bringing to mind other modern tech death acts like Vale of Pnath and Inferi (whose Malcolm Pugh appears with a tasty solo in The Test of Wisdom), but carving their own distinct path. Also worthy of note are the fiery, yet always tasteful solos, not overused but instead sprinkled throughout the songs at the proper moments. The heavy balance of black metal influence is key to their sound, as they have clearly chosen to go heavy on the blast beats and tremolo runs in a manner that also recalls genre-bending newcomers Enthean and Singularity.
When first confronted with this album, I was somewhat taken aback by its significant runtime. At 67 minutes, it’s a daunting listen if, like me, you prefer to listen to albums all the way through. This lengthy time also made the first few spins a little difficult to parse, and gave me the impression that the album lacked diversity. Only after determined listening was it easy to pick apart the individual songs, and I was pleased to find that the pacing and structure was well thought out as well. With a number of slower tunes (like The Dirge of the Surrogate Invictus) and a couple of pensive instrumentals and shorter songs, Enfold Darkness shows the ability to offer the listener dips in intensity. And with a blend of the more linear, story-dense songs like Liberator of Mages mixed in with more straightforward, even catchy ragers like Terror of a Perilous Quest, the album avoids the tiresome feeling of becoming overly plot-driven. Instead, like a good video game, there’s just enough story to keep me engaged, and a huge overflow of action to keep me entertained. I highly recommend this album to any fan of melodic, technical death metal, and suspect that fans of symphonic black metal with find a lot to love here as well.