There’s few things that please me more in death metal than when an artist manages to blend old and new styles together in a way that feels neither contrived nor convoluted. Phoenix, Arizona’s one-man project Thorn produce a style of death metal that combines both the cavernous atmospheres and harsh riffing of old school death metal with the djenty tones and dark melodic visages of modern death metal. If you ever wanted to hear death metal that’s somewhere between Morbid Angel, The Acacia Strain and Temple Of Void, then Thorn could be for you.
The Encompassing Nothing begins with Chasms Of Rust, a slow death-doom intro that sets the tone for the record. It’s notable just how strong the production is too, and it continues throughout the record. It’s dynamic and precise, and despite the fact that this album has been created in a very synthetic manner (by which I mean this is one person recording all the instruments individually) it still feels organic enough that it doesn’t lose the human quality. The drums are programmed, but unless you have a particularly keen ear for the specifics of drum sounds, you wouldn’t necessarily notice. The vocals across the record are mostly in the classic guttural death metal style, but as with the riffs, there’s something decisively modern about the way they sit in the mix; they’re swathed in echo yet feel quite immediate at the same time.
Häxan Womb is a tirelessly energetic track that flows from visceral Exhumed style riffs to groovy melodies freely. Pagan’s Monolith does much of the same blending of death metal styles, but it’s melodic break has a more epic feel to it, whilst the final riff even brings in some trademark Gojira pick sweeps amongst the dense guitar. Old Father Below opens with some Scandinavian style riffs, before suddenly throwing you straight into a deep pit of brutal guitars and tortuously powerful drums. Once we’re pulled out from this void we get a deathcore sounding final leg that pummels us with a stomping mid-tempo groove.
It’s one of the best sounding death metal albums I’ve heard recently…
Returning To Dust is an unexpected piece of purely clean post-metal with a deep and sombre vocal behind the instrumental. It may be a tangent in the track listing, but it’s performed incredibly well. The contrast it provides to following track Fields Of Blight gives it such power when it arrives, that it barely lets up throughout the cacophony of riffs.
The title track closes out the record, and remarkably it’s the only offering longer than three minutes. Not that any of the others feel particularly short, but this track definitely feels like the most extensive on the album. The riffs seem stretched and elongated and there is a definite tension when the closing movement arrives. It’s another riff which I could hear coming from one of the more metal deathcore bands like Fit For An Autopsy, and it’s a thoroughly catchy hook to finish the album on.
The Encompassing Nothing is exactly what you want from a debut album: it puts down a template for Thorn‘s sound whilst still leaving room for improvement; it showcases the creative ideas and instrumental skills without being too focussed on technicality; and it can also stand alone as a strong and vivid album. It’s one of the best sounding death metal albums I’ve heard recently, not necessarily for the production but in the combination of sounds and styles which Thorn melds together. It’s nearly all death metal for sure, but there is still so much versatility that it sets the stage for what I am certain will be a bright future.
Scribed by: Will J