Sunday, May 4, 2014
Emptiness - Nothing But The Whole 
It's always interesting to witness the evolution of a band from its primordial aesthetics slowly, gradually into the manifestation of something almost inexcusably darker and emotive. Such has been the case with Emptiness on their fourth full-length ''Nothing But The Whole''. As group whose talent and experience in the fields of extreme metal reach sizable proportions through their affiliations with other Belgian projects such as the notorious Enthroned, and as one which had successfully harnessed the currents of the sound which they'd been striving to execute with their latest offering in 2012, I was quite confounded by the amount of experimental touches that adorned and bedecked each and every lugubrious corner of this record. Has traditional black/death come to and end? Has the tradition of wild, promiscuous goats and satanic ghouls raping whores suddenly been outed by depression and emotional catharsis? Far from it I imagine, as certain flag bearers such as Diocletian and Teitanblood still produce material akin to that ravenous, diabolic sub-genre has promoted, but some, like Emptiness choose to follow a somewhat different path...
This is not the French Revolution here, mind you, but we're still talking about certain stylistic changes. It's almost as if the primitiveness that the band had since their very first recording been eventually exfoliated and wreathed out of the body with every release, with the evolution finally making an abrupt stop at ''Nothing But the Whole'', whose almost indolently suicidal and depressive title bears fruit pertaining to the changes in the band's course. Indeed, Emptiness never quite was inundated in the same grime and blasphemy of the aforementioned acts, being somehow more modern and refined; but this never prevented it from bedeviling the listener with sinister, crushing riffs or atmospheric feats. So then, if we're not in for those, what can we expect of ''Nothing But the Whole''? Well, if I may be so bold, we're expecting a forecast of cantankerous termagency, floods of subtle emotions, pacing through an unaccustomed fervor for experimental details, and the same suicidal, depressive motive that the title bears overridden with a paranoid discrepancy that in some way penalizes the band's consistency in return.
I know, that's a quite a bit to take in, and all will be explained, eventually. What Emptiness is essentially doing here is marginalizing its own set of influences and unique sounds to a single piece that quite doesn't fit into any other kind of door. We're talking drone metal. Absurd guitar distortions and dissonances. Weary waves of serpentine black/death. Groove-like drum patterns. Industrial soundscapes. Indeed, there's no denying that the Belgians have strained their imagination in many perceivable ways to the point where it would be rather difficult to dub them as simplistic or platitudinous anymore. But, - and here's the big question - does originality always sum up to quality? I think even the ignorant schoolboy would be aware that the answer is no. Hell, comparing this to 2012's ''Error'' or their 2007 opus ''Oblivion'' I felt the band had been sapped of its succulence and vitality so much that they were in some respects just recycling material from their previous releases with the speed dropped to a lower gait and with a few oddities attached here and there. Yes, it's pretty obvious that they were going for a less sincere, and, I daresay, more ''spiritual'' sound, and while they do manage to do just that, they flounder in the consistency department, as well as lacking the incentives to produce something just plainly memorable.
I may have demeaned these guys a little more than I ought to, what can I say? How does one go from ''Oblivion'', with its massive roiling guitars and melodic sesibility, to something that's more on par with the average sludge/drone doom band? It's certainly not terrible, however: you've got tracks like the opener ''Go and Hope'' where the replacement of muscular, grinding attributions don't seem to have taken any kind of toll, with ghostly, harrowing melodies accompanying the lurching guitars, and for some the album as a whole may have a particular appeal due to the sheer continuity of the discomfiture, but I doubt anyone whose interest don't fall under Ulcerate, Flourishing or Triptykon will be particularly taken by this. In a way, I faced a dilemma where I couldn't decide whether I wanted to love or hate the album - the doomed poignancy of tracks like the finale ''Lowland'' was beautiful, but something like the megalithic ''All is Known'' almost bored the fuck out of me - so in the end I decided that I was stuck in between. This album, beyond the snarling, harassing vocals, seems like a serious departure from black as well, which could mark the band's sojourn into pure-death metal territory, but that discussion is for another day. For now, folks, try to enjoy ''Nothing But the Whole''. It has its good moments, but lacks the polish of the previous records too much to be something overwhelmingly good. Maybe some Belgian ale would be good?
Go and Hope
Tale of a Burning Man