PICK OF THE WEEK: Emptiness pack unconventional terror, murk into ‘Nothing But the Whole’

EmptinessWarped chaos and black infinity sound like better subjects for a Monday post, I know, but there’s no reason why they can’t brighten your weekend in a real charred way as well. You do the same thing every weekend, right? So why not dig into a new record that’s almost impossible to describe and will make you feel uncomfortable and just a little nauseous when it’s over?

See, today we have “Nothing But the Whole,” the fourth full-length effort from Belgian monsters Emptiness, and what you’re bound to feel inside when it’s over will pretty much be the opposite of the band’s name. It’s a strange, warbling, challenging record, and chances are this won’t be the thing you want to hear as you’re driving down a highway looking for an adrenaline rush, you amateur. Instead, this is the type of record you put on late at night, with the lights down, and hopefully it’s storming with plenty of lightning just to add another layer of eerie ambiance. It’ll fill you with fear and make you think your head is full of noises telling you to do strange things. You might find when the record comes to an end, you’re flooded with strange ideas and indecipherable messages, but that means you absorbed this thing just right, and you’re ready for another trip.

Emptiness coverEmptiness is masterminded by two members of black metal cult Enthroned, that being lead vocalist and bassist Phorgath and guitarist/vocalist Olve j.LW. While their other band is a little more conventional in the black metal sense, they uncover new levels of strangeness and savagery with Emptiness, showing you they have far more prowess for the dark arts than you ever realized. Alongside of them are two more black souls in the form of guitarist Phil Pieters Smith (a former member of Manic Movement) and drummer Jonas Sanders (who also plays in Drakkar, Resistance, and Age of Movement, among others). The band reaches a new level of menace and mystery on “Nothing But the Whole,” and it’s bound to be one of the most unique, unsettling death metal experiences you’ll have all year long.

The vicious, malicious “Go and Hope” begins the record, and while it’s a grisly, furious song, it’s not brutal riffs and blast beats on top of each other. Instead it’s a cold piece, with strains of deathrock and dreary playing, as Phorgath delivers his growled vocals almost as if he’s reading an epitaph. It’s not a conventional delivery, and that’s what makes it so damn effective. There are pained cries and wails, some gothic instincts, and final noises that grind out into dust. The title track follows, built on low rumble growls that sound like they’re bouncing on an underground electric wave, charged-up riffs, and some off-kilter melodies that lash back and forth. There are elements of doom and classic black metal to be heard, as well as voices swirling all over the place, with the song disappearing into madness. “Behind the Curtain” is a strange one, opening with more odd noisemaking and the song floating in ether before it hits on a death groove and some chugging that seems to come out of nowhere, with Phorgath howling, “I call to you, my faithful friend!” The song switches tempos often, from spooky to crunchy, all the way up to its conclusion. “All Is Known” is the longest cut of the seven at 8:51, and it has liquidy guitars tricking, some thorny riffs that threaten to scar, and gravelly vocals. The track has some moments where it leans more toward a rock tempo, which feels strange considering the surroundings, but the tumult comes back around again, eventually drowning out in static.

“Tale of a Burning Man” brings back the aggression, with corrosive guitar work, dizzying melodies, and creaky growls that sound like they’re being transmitted from beyond the grave. “The Past Is Death” has threatening riffs, a plodding atmosphere that boils and burns, and furious growls that are frightening because they feel strangely detached. Later, there are some vocals that feel like they’re meant to be spoken, though they sound filtered through glass, and the final moments of the song veer back into explosive chaos and finally dissolve into nothingness. Closer “Lowland” injects more deathrock cloudiness into the record, following that up with an explosion display from the band and Phorgath following up with grisly vocals. The band drives far off the path of conventional and expected with their playing, exploding over and over again with their murky assault, leading toward its sinewy bizarre finish complete with echoey growls and guitars slicing and dicing everything in front of them. If you need a moment once the record ends, you’re not alone. I needed a few minutes to figure out what I’d just heard, and even then it took another trip to really grab hold of my thoughts.

There’s nothing normal about Emptiness’ approach to death metal, and that is awfully damn refreshing in a world where everyone is grinding out the same thing. A band that can put chills up your spine is a lost treasure in today’s world, and having a band like this that can freeze you over and over again is something to behold. “Noting But the Whole” is an experience you won’t soon shake, and like a ghoul looking to exact revenge on you for some kind of wrong, it will haunt you until your final days.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.emptiness.be/

To buy the album go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/store

For more on the label go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/

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