Monday, January 30, 2012

Dark Castle - Surrender To All Life Beyond Form

Dark Castle is (was?) a cool sludge and post-metal duo. Their debut Spirited Migration featured straightforward, fuzzed out riffing and the psychedelic stylings of genre titans Ufomammut. Sadly Dark Castle took the elements that made their debut decent and tossed them out the window in favor of a more "freeform" approach to songwriting that neither flows well nor succeeds in creating a compelling psychedelic atmosphere.

Surrender To All Life Beyond Form is a bit heavier than its predecessor and a bit more fuzzed out or noisy. That's not a bad thing at all and if I spun it the other way I'm sure I'd convince you that this album kicks ass. Don't get your hopes up. It doesn't. The doom riffing on "Seeing Through Time" is pretty cool and chick vocalist Stevie Floyd does a decent job on there with both spoken word cleans and her scratchy, high-pitched rasp. However for the most part her vocals are weak. There was a stylistic change here from Spirited Migration, where she implemented more guttural vocals that were surprisingly impressive. Instead her screeching gets a bit grating and often sounds forced and unnatural, especially on "Stare Into Absence" and the intro to "I Hear Wind." "Spirit Ritual" is a dull ambient-fest that could put even the most coked up dudebro or acid-eyed stoner to sleep. "To Hide Is To Die" isn't much better either. This spoken word track fails to capture any emotion at all and serves as filler on a filler-filled album.

To be honest it's painful to listen to Surrender To All Life Beyond Form. The album is awash in the aforementioned droning 'psychedelic' noise, and more often than not it detracts from the atmosphere. I've listened to pure noise albums more exciting than this and with significantly more artistic elements that don't feel forced. I read a review that commented on how pretentious the song titles are and I can agree wholeheartedly since the album doesn't do a good job of holding up to its own arrogance. Some songs aren't THAT bad though. "I Hear Wind" does feature some interesting atonal riffing ala the infamous French black metal scene and "Heavy Eyes" isn't half bad either. However songs like the stupidly-titled closer "Learning To Unlearn" are pure shit and serve no other purpose than to annoy the listener.

I wouldn't doubt if this album was written solely to fulfill a contract deal since it's so devoid of quality elements. The lack of structuring (Get it? These songs are "Beyond Form" hurr), weak vocals, and nonexistent riffs really make this one of the bigger letdowns of 2011.

3.0 out of 10


1. Surrender to All Life Beyond Form
2. Stare into Absence
3. Create an Impulse
4. Seeing Through Time
5. Heavy Eyes
6. Spirit Ritual
7. To Hide Is to Die
8. I Hear Wind
9. Learning to Unlearn

Don't even bother. Not that I could find a link anyway.

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