The Blackest Volume: Like All The Earth Was Buried
17th February 2017 - Innerstrength Records
01. Praise The Venom Shield
02. Begrudging Soul
03. From Heaven Wept
04. Cursed Diminished Years
05. I Am The Cold Harsh Whispers In Hell
06. Dance Of Thorns
07. The Blessed Ivory Tongue
08. No Taste More Bitter
09. With fear This Love Is Given
10. Came No Dawn
11. To Whom I Await
After disbanding their previous embodiment Traitor and reforming under the new name Sunlight’s Bane, the Michigan based black metal, grindcore, crust punk five-piece are back with a vengeance. With The Blackest Volume: Like All The Earth Was Buried it is obvious the band have spent every waking hour in the run up to their comeback honing their blood-caked sound to a sharp and destructive point. And if that album title isn’t a mouthful then this record isn’t one of the goddamn heaviest and unapologetically bleak slabs of extreme music that 2017 has on offer. Fasten your seat belts, kids.
The marriage of styles on the record are executed superbly, drawing the break-neck speeds, blast beats and riffs from the world of death metal and the massive, despondent chord progressions and raw recording from black metal and punk respectively. The overall aesthetic this produces could be compared to a grindcore incarnation of Oathbreaker or a pissed off chronically depressed bee hive; aware that their stings will lead to their demise, but determined to take as many people down with them as possible in the process. It is gloriously disgusting.
Not only is it an impressive record from a stylistic and production standpoint, but Sunlight’s Bane prove themselves as incredibly exciting songwriters. Going into the record aware of its hour-long run time, it would be understandable if some listeners became sceptical after hearing the album’s lead single and opening track “Praise The Venom Shield“, which fully represents the up-tempo, aggressive sides of the record. Even veterans of the genre will admit that there’s only so much in the way of grind a man can withstand before it feels like being mercilessly shunted into five rounds of bare-knuckle boxing – but only a few tracks into the album, the 4/4 pulse and d-beats are traded in for a more triplet based feel on the song “Cursed Diminished Years” which injects a new energy into the music and shows the band are willing to experiment and can successfully embrace different rhythmic ideas.
This experimentation only deepens the further in you get, from the sludgy down-tempo chugging of “I Am The Cold Harsh Whispers In Hell” to the incredible tremolo picked melody in “No Taste More Bitter“, and it’s not as if the band set aside certain tracks to indulge and experiment with a single sound; they are capable of flitting back and forth between sludge, grind, punk, death metal and black metal with fluid ease throughout the record, resulting in some unexpected and incredibly fresh song structures.
As if all of this wasn’t enough to sate the most voracious of musical delinquents, The Blackest Volume takes a turn for the dark in the final three tracks. It is at this stage where their black metal influences really start to shine through and round the album out in such a way as to squeeze all of the hope from the listener. This is particularly apparent on “With Fear This Love Is Given” which operates solely on two central chord progressions, introducing massive melancholic harmonised guitar melodies, and building incrementally to one of the album’s most explosive climaxes.
It can safely be said that Like All The Earth Was Buried is guaranteed to go down as one of 2017’s darkest and most cathartic listens. Despite the inescapable feelings of despair and sheer frustration that it emanates, the fact that Sunlight’s Bane have crafted such an ambitious and relentless record without it coming across as tedious or superfluous is in itself a defiant cry of triumph. This is not a happy record. This is the sonic equivalent of bathing in pitch – but you will be hard pressed to find an album as raw and deadly. Just make sure you have some Wham! at the ready in order to recover and lighten the mood after the record’s final dying screams of guitar feedback fade into the night.