If you’ve heard the saying, ‘it’s all about balance’ and actually believed tempering emotional extremes was conducive to great art, then you need not listen to Bloodswamp’s mammoth of a debut record, Daylight Illuminates A Miserable World. Hailing from London, UK, Bloodswamp’s members, only identified by first name initials (Sz. – Drums, R. – Bass & Noise, W. – Guitar & Vocals, T. – Guitar), aim to let the music speak for itself – a multi personified self, that is, beyond ego and bravado.
What we’re left with is 50 minutes of hybridized heaviness – think Unearthly Trance meets late 90s My Dying Bride pitted against a less fashionable Deafheaven and you’ll be well seated in the arena for 6 tracks of dueling styles, all competing for the upper hand.
Opener Decline And Decay sets a somber tone from the gate, with gentle backing synths and a simple acoustic melody; it’s melancholia incarnate until a solid rhythm section kicks your teeth in. Minor chords predominate leading to an abrupt segue into abrasive fuzz and feedback soaked tremolo picked leads. Your ears never really settle into steady state before the band changes gears – it’s a virtual decathlon of tempos and techniques which is a trend on this record. Early on it feels exhausting, but as the album progresses, you grow to anxiously anticipate each twist and turn.
The vocals are reminiscent of Aaron Stainthorpe’s (My Dying Bride) black metal rasp – viciously effective, but unfortunately buried a bit too far in the mix at times to get the full impact. Fortunately, however, the 90s era My Dying Bride influences (to my ears) don’t stop there as Mindful-less takes us on a nostalgic Like Gods Of The Sun rehash with a superb opening riff so reminiscent it takes me square back to 1996.
Phaser effects accentuate the lick, and in fact they could ride this riff for the whole song and I’d be happy. Yet never content with stagnation, the band takes another abrupt segue into black metal before settling into a smooth mid tempo melodic jam at the five minute mark. When the fire simmers, a black metal/shoegaze hybrid emerges with a highly memorable and exceptional climax.
Julice gives a nod to the drone scene, its avant-garde mixture of feedback and low frequency distortion evoking a sense of grief and loss. It’s a unique track serving more as an interlude and mood sustainer than anything else but not out of place. Beyond the doom riffs and discordance, there’s a penchant for the ‘weird’ and ‘unexpected’ – it’s a priceless attribute and what draws me to artists like Steven O’Malley, Oren Ambarchi, or even the more progressive output from Ryan Lipynski (Unearthly Trance).
The vocals melt into a guttural slosh with explosive feedback eruptions, leads like flashing sparks, burning to cut through and dissolve the distortion…
They mesh disparate ingredients with a forward thinking approach. All of it is glued together with superbly disturbing atmosphere. While it’s a bit early in Bloodswamp’s career to predict their place in the hierarchy, they show signs of a band willing to push boundaries for the sake of art and not imitation and this naturally allows them to be their own in a scene flooded with copy cats.
Portrait is a go for the throat rocker, reminiscent of Electrocution era Unearthly Trance; frantic black metal explosions bookend one of the album’s most memorable riffs – a straight up headbanger of a song with yet another melodic finale. As if blasting out of a dissonant aural fog, the band nails the hook right when it counts.
It’s unclear whether the array of ideas filling each song, often with no transition between them, is entirely intentional or due to a newer band attempting to push the limits of conventionality. Regardless of the answer, On The Threshold Of The Void is a case study in successfully defying convention, and it’s hard for me to believe this is a nine minute forty nine second accident.
A whispered vocal, pounding drums placed high in the mix, a skulking rhythm and a slick bass line get things going, all devolving into an abrasively fuzzy dirge. The vocals melt into a guttural slosh with explosive feedback eruptions, leads like flashing sparks, burning to cut through and dissolve the distortion – like a hand through thick, murky fog. Then further devolution into a sinking, melting metallic goop – phaser effects again accentuate what sounds like a metaphysical neuronal breakdown, as if our collective conscious were physically wired to hell’s evolution of the astral plane.
Closer Analogy borrows from a similar playbook as earlier tracks; a welcome marriage of melody and discordance, this time around with leads more centered on feel than precision; again, this ‘rock’ devolves into a train of seemingly improvised chaotic noise – a virtual soup of competing ingredients, but the competition is what we apparently came for, because when the fight is over, we’re ready for another ten rounds.
All in all, a promising debut from a band whose unique path is clearly defined and wide enough for evolution. I’m looking forward to their next release and so should you – hit their bandcamp page and show your support.
Scribed by: Jeremy Moore