First off – an apology. The band sent me this album a couple of weeks before release – unfortunately, it would take months for me to get into the headspace I am now, actually being able to string words together in a coherent fashion, to do this album justice. But then, I’d like to think it has become a better view…
In a way, there’s nothing quite as liberating and envigorating as a truly heartfelt bout of atmospheric black metal pummeling. And luckily, at the moment there seems to be a neverending flow of great releases helping set us free.
And let me just simply say, with the release of debut-album Departures, Sunken has written themselves into the annals of atmospheric black as a force to be reckoned with.
It’s an album that hits you equally hard in the stomach as well as in the heart. An album that screams defiance towards the sky, as well as curls up in a ball, softly murmurring, searching for answers that never quite seem to be forthcoming.
Everything about Sunken shouts “forethought” – from their beautiful band-logo, to the equally beautiful cover that sets the scene so magnificently, to the fact that the album has a real intro-track… one that actually works, instead of just being something that’s tucked on as an afterthought… all of it points in the direction of a band working seriously with their music
Vocals – Martin Skyum Thomasen
Guitar – Simon Skotte Krogh
Guitar – Frederik Lippert
Bass – Jonas Faghtmann
Drums – Ken Lund Klejs
Throughout the album’s tracks you can hear themes being repeated, sometimes subtly changed to reflect changes in the music’s feel and focus. And there seems to be not a single tempo-break, rhytm-change og anything that doesn’t feel completely natural, many of them not even noticed at first until several bars into the next section. Changing intermittently from soft flowing sections into cruel punishing yawps of pain. Everything centered around the great expanse of the ocean – a perfect conduit for this loneliness, abandonment, betrayal the music feels to be describing.
During the soothing sections, you are almost led to believe the quiet sea is your friend, only to be brutally awakened to the fact, that the sea does not really care about you at all, in all your insignificance.
In some of the most hectic moments, with those formidable screams by Martin Skyum Thomasen the whole experience becomes painful, in this cathartic way, where every receptor in the body seems to open up and receive input at the same time – painful yes, but also cleansing and expansive.
Initially, I did have a hangup with the production and mix. But it has proven over numerous listens to be a quite ambivalent hangup. On one hand I truly love the crispness of the bass-lines, and how it seems to hover over everything else, the one true constant that ties everything else together, or this overseeing creature, watching, gauging if everything is as it needs to be. And the drums are placed almost perfectly in the mix. On the other hand, the vocals are buried somewhat (too) deep, and during the all-out, violent parts there seem to be too much going on, too much echo on the guitars, creating this muddy pool of confusion.
From the band’s upcoming debut full-length, “Departure”. Out on May 26th, 2017 via Triton’s Orbit. Pre-orders: https://tritonsorbit.bandcamp.com/album/departure
But – and that’s a very big one – this is also the exact same thing that seems to create a truly repressive, almost suffocating, claustrophobic effect that really fits the music overall and the oceanic theme specifically. So, in hindsight, as I have come to fully appreciate the different aspects of this album, the production has subtly changed its meaning for me, into one that is fully supportive of what the band tries to evoke.
Somewhere along this rather long process of getting to know this album, a little devil in me couldn’t help actually comparing this album to a couple of other bands I really treasure in the atmospheric/neo-black scene: co-Danes Solbrud, and German Der Weg Einer Freihet, bands that have both released remarkably expansive and enormously inspiring new albums over the last few months, Now, I’m no big fan of such comparative analysis in general, but for the sake of the argument, I wanted to check how they measured up against what I perceive to be artistic “leaders” – if it was only my imagination that saw Departure as a definite stepping-stone towards the absolute top. So, what I did was simply listen to Departure followed by Solbrud and Der Weg Einer Freiheit respectively (the 2 eponymously titled debut-albums of said bands).
Now – and I’m probably lining myself up for a flame war here (lucky I haven’t got that many people actually reading my meanderings) – what this little experiment did show me, was that Sunken shows a level of artistic sophistication (maturity even) that seems above and beyond what those 2 other bands did show on their debuts (albums I dearly love, by the way, and still will, of course).
Either way, I find Departures to be a truly remarkable debut, one that is very hard to shake once it gets the opportunity to settle beneath the skin, and one that bodes very well for the future of Sunken. Breathtaking.
The album is out on (fittingly) Triton’s Orbit – go buy!