King - Reclaim The Darkness - (8/10)
Published on August 22, 2016
Usually black metal is a trying experience, which requires the listener to dig deeper than its abrasive surface, in order to reap the full benefit of what’s contained within—especially in the modern age, as the genre moves ever-further away from its savage, necrotic origins, toward a more considered and atmospheric aesthetic. Not so much with Reclaim The Darkness—the debut record from Australia’s King; which features members from such esteemed death metal/grindcore acts as Psycroptic, Blood Duster and Fuck… I’m Dead—which injects a hefty dose of melody and structure into the chaotic-come-expansive, black metal template.
King is a collaboration between, Blood Duster/The Day Everything Became Nothing vocalist, Tony “Tone Bone” Forde; his TDEBN co-conspirator and Fuck I’m… Dead guitarist, Dave Hill; and Psycroptic drummer Dave Haley. Haley, at least, is no stranger to the black metal realm, given his involvement with Australia’s premier black metal act, Ruins—not to mention every other Australian, extreme metal act worth a damn—but you’d likely be expecting an altogether more brutal experience, given the band’s pedigree, that that offered up on Reclaim The Darkness. King provide a distinctly melodic experience eon their debut album, and it’s one which not only emphasizes, but revels in it’s slower, more-contemplative approach.
Ruins are the obvious point of reference for King’s sound, with the two bands sharing a similar reverence for mid-period Satyricon, along with their percussionist. However, Reclaim The Darkness throws a significant ammount of Immortal-style grandiosity into the mix, along with an added emphasis on reflection and atmospherics in place of those three bands’ reliance on the majesty of the riff. This isn’t shoegaze, or even “Cascadian” black metal, by any stretch, but it certainly feels as though King are using their music to paint a picture of abandoned landscapes and oppressively barren environments rather than appealing to primal notions of aggression and the occult.
While the compositions are impressive within themselves, what’s truly remarkable about Reclaim The Darkness are the individual performances. Haley—who’s been known to overwhelm past projects with his pure, overpowering, technical prowess—plays a fairly subdued role here, maintaining the record’s momentum and giving it a prod along here and there, when it needs it, but remaining largely reserved. As alluded to above, Hill’s doesn’t go in for the kind of driving riffs associated with comparable acts, but rather maintains an consistent atmosphere of epic proportions throughout Reclaim The Darkness’s, through a continuous succession of galloping chords and folk-inspired melodic leads. His solos on “Cold Winds” and “Black North” are truly inspiring, and there isn’t a single moment on the record for which he can be faulted.
However, it’s Forde who delivers the most impressive performance of King’s impressive line-up. It’s utterly ridiculous to think of him being involved in anything deemed “melodic”—let alone something so absolutely defined by the attribute as Reclaim The Darkness is. However, Forde makes the transition from his usual, guttural croak to lofty black metal rasp, not only comfortably, but with a proficiency that suggests the involvement of a seasoned, genre veteran. Combine all this with a deep, modern production—which proves once and for all that black metal can be both clear and polished without loosing any of its mood or atmospheric impact—and not only have you got one hell of a debut on your hands, but a truly impressive and promising take on the black metal genre from the most-unexpected of sources.
Having said all that, although it’s easy to get lost in Reclaim The Darkness’s bleak, hypnotic soundscape, it’s also hard to tell weather you (or the music) have actually grown all that much, come the record’s end. Still, it’s the journey and not the destination that counts, right? And Reclaim The Darkness provides one of the most immediate and enjoyable black metal expeditions you’ll come across all year.
King will be making their live debut this month, alongside Black Metal heavyweights Inquistion, during their upcoming Australian tour.