Shadow In The Darkness - Erstwhile Befell

8 songs
32:24 minutes
***** ****


Thereís lots of skilful death metal going around, but you rarely come across a band where you will listen with your mouth (and ears) wide open. Shadow In The Darkness from Greece are one of those technical death metal bands that take inspiration from early Cynic and Atheist, delivering on their debut longplayer Erstwhile Befell a powerhouse that will leave you speechless.

The opener Benign begins with a moody intro to set the mood before the actual song is crushing you with its remaining two minutes. And from there on, the band is taking no prisoners. Interdisciplinary Sectarianism, released earlier as a single, is at four minutes longer, giving actually a better example of the bandís modus operandi. The drums are inhumanly fast and full of complex patterns, the guitarist must take care not to get his fingers knotted, so incredible are the parts he is playing. Occasional synth parts add mood, and a few vocoder parts made me think of a young Cynic before they gave up death metal. The Aboriginal Storyteller was also pre-released as a single and offers more of the same. There is nothing catchy here, but the sheer insanity of the bandís technical chops is more than enough to make up for a lack of singalong melodies. Aspalathus (Prelude) is a quiet instrumental segueing into 21, and just like the following The Deontology Of An Android, we get incredibly dense tracks that will let you discover new details every time you listen to them. A Grand Parable is another interlude before the album ends with From Conversion To Fixation in the way we have come to appreciate Shadow In The Darkness throughout this half-hour short record.

And thatís my only criticism: if you subtract the intro and the interludes, you are left with only about twenty-eight minutes. Two more regular tracks would have brough Erstwhile Befell to a more customer-friendly running time. But the six actual songs are really out of this world. Nowadays, extreme technical metal is often associated with the djent movement, and while the latter definitely has its share of skilled musicians, I just prefer this more old-school technical death metal harking back to the early Nineties when it was still considered adventurous to combine the brutality of death metal with the complex chops of the then emergent prog metal genre spearheaded by bands like Watchtower, Realm and Sieges Even. Erstwhile Befell is a nod to that time, but also a lot more. The songs are overflowing with ideas, and it takes a fan of progressive technical metal to appreciate all of this. But those that are the target audience should consider themselves hooked.

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