Dark Space III
posted on 8/2008 By:
Before I begin, I should warn you; if you are looking for something catchy and intense to bang your head to in the car on the way to work, don’t even consider looking at this album. Forget about songs, riffs, even “music” in the traditional sense. The sound that the incredible Swiss project Darkspace have achieved on their third full length (and their previous two as well) is something truly otherworldly, and will be lost on all but the most patient, curious, and open-minded metal heads.
Anyone familiar with the work of Darkspace guitarist and vocalist Tobias Mockyl in his equally fantastic solo outing Paysage d’Hiver (known as Wroth in the former and Wintherr in the latter) knows that this individual is capable of creating some of the most stirring atmospheric music you’ll find today. But where Paysage d’Hiver utilizes epic, incredibly simplistic raw black metal and ambient compositions to channel the desolation and beauty of a winter landscape, Darkspace merges the two styles in a manner that is entirely their own; creating a hellish cacophony of chaotic, unsettling sound that conjures up visions of exploding stars, vast nebulas, and the infinite mysteries of space and time. The end result is one that simply has to be heard to be understood.
With that said, I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to describe this album. Minimalism is certainly key; each of the album’s seven lengthy “songs” contain no more than two or three blackened riff patterns, supplemented with almost inaudible drumming and the distant, terrifying howls of Wroth. While this aspect of the band’s sound is executed perfectly as is, what really separates this album from the hordes of black/ambient hybrids is the way they use keyboards. Rather than the dreary, relaxing ambience you’d hear from a band like Vinterrikeet, the keys in Darkspace are grandiose and dramatic, creating a nightmarish, swirling cacophony with the guitars that would almost seem orchestral if it weren’t so repetitive. As the drums blast away in the background and the guitars and keyboards envelop you with their majestic dark sounds, you truly feel as if you are hurtling through the deepest depths of space, overwhelmed with awe and fear at the same time. It would be easy to label the music in Dark Space III as “simplistic,” but the thoughts and images that this album evokes are of the most complex kind. Simply put, if any band ever defined the expression “greater than the sum of its parts,” it would be Darkspace.
Going into detail about individual tracks and moments would be both pointless and trivializing of the music at hand. Though well over an hour long, Dark Space III is unmistakably the end result of one singular idea; one artistic vision. After the unrelenting maelstrom of the first four tracks, simply titled “Darkspace 3.11-3.14", the brief ambient interlude of the fifth piece is the only break you’ll find before diving back into the thirty-minute long pandemonium that constitutes the final two songs. Even for those like myself who admire and enjoy underground music’s more esoteric branches (drone, raw black metal, dark ambient) this album is without question one of the most “difficult” I’ve ever come across. While initial listens may leave you confused, bored, even irritated, those who approach this album with the right mindset are in for an incredibly enthralling and rewarding experience.
Don’t pay too much attention to the scores. Albums like this are too vague, enigmatic, and subjective to grade on specific scales. You can call this band, this kind of music, and this review pretentious all you want, but Darkspace completely transcend the “bad=good” aesthetic that so many ultra-cult projects depend on because they succeed so triumphantly in what they are trying to accomplish. This record isn’t for everyone; in fact, it's for a very few. But that doesn’t change the fact that Dark Space III is nothing less than one of the most powerful and evocative albums released this year, and for those willing to properly absorb it, offers a journey through the darkest depths of space and the mind that is simply awe-inspiring.
Approach at your own risk.
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