The Last Breath Of My Mortal Despair (Reissue)
posted on 5/2008 By:
Hailing from Spain, a country not usually recognized for its extreme metal scene, Empty have impressed this reviewer tremendously with one hell of a strong depressive black metal release. A re-issue of the outfit’s second album, The Last Breath Of My Mortal Despair is a masterful showing in its field, ripe with energy and raw emotion and full of expertly implemented instrumentation and songwriting. I admit that I wasn't too optimistic about this release before hearing it, but from the first listen on this band has captivated me with their detailed sonic attack, and I’ve been enamored since.
At its core, this is suicidal black metal somewhat reminiscent of the USBM scene, but Empty end up carving out their own niche based on the overall scope of the band’s sound and influences. The usual hallmarks of black metal (blast beats, rasped vocals, tremolo riffs) are still the outfit’s main mode of delivery, but rather than stop there, Empty uses this familiar foundation as the backbone for a much richer palette of sound. Fast blackened melodies appear prominently in tracks like “The Spectral Paleness of the Skin” and opener “The Horrible Drawing Back of the Black Veil,” the latter introducing the album with a long and perfectly eerie chord progression that sounds like something Blut Aus Nord could write. That‘s a great fucking riff there, my friends, and it's only the beginning of an album chock-full of high-level compositional work. Another highlight, “Manifest Of Endless Sorrow In Sanity” sees the riff attack increase in speed and technicality, later interspersed with trippy hammer-on effects and subtle keyboard backing that make for a disturbing blend of sounds. The band is also adept at lowering the intensity for some glowering clean guitar passages, such as interlude track “A Source Of Hollow Essence,” which begins with some deceptively bright clean strumming that becomes increasingly morbid as the guitars are joined by whispered vocals and an ominous bass line. Songs like this showcase Empty’s notable skill in dynamics and atmosphere, two elements which are often seen to be at odds in black metal music.
The Last Breath Of My Mortal Despair owes its success just as much to its execution as it does its substance. Everything seems to go right on this album technically; the clear and heavy production is exactly what you’d want such a deep and brooding album to sound like in this millenium, and the musicianship is highly competent on all counts. Of particular note is the simply superb bass playing, which stands out more than on any other black metal album I’ve heard recently. High in the mix and proficiently played, the bass tracks on this album command your attention from start to finish, often more than even the guitars, which is definitely something I didn’t expect coming in. While often supplying a steady tremolo rhythm to support the riffs, there are numerous instances where the bass takes on a lead role all its own, either by offering distinct melodies to complement the guitars (“The Last Breath Of My Mortal Despair”), or most notably in the spattering of mildly funky licks that bring a more evil Faith No More to mind (“Owner Of Wailings,” “The Spectral Paleness of the Skin”). The multi-faceted vocals also deserve mention, running the gauntlet from piercing shrieks, to morose and distant cleans, to hair-raising howls that owe more than a little debt to Leviathan.
If this multitude of musical elements sounds like it could come off muddled, it doesn’t. In fact, the consistency and flow of the seven songs here is probably this work’s greatest strength, and that’s a lofty achievement in black metal’s often-narrow stylistic confinements. Flaws? Very few and far between. Some may find the strained and scratchy sound of the harsh vocals distracting, but other than that it's hard to come up with anything to really complain about here. The Last Breath Of My Mortal Despair is varied, well-played, and achieves its goals musically and atmospherically, on top of being nothing less than a highly enjoyable listening experience to boot. In short, Empty are the real deal, and in an era full of great black metal, have the substance and originality to stand above a great deal of their contemporaries. Check this out immediately.
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