Released: 2015, Satanath Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
The second album from Belgium's Zardens has a somewhat odd legacy. Though Blackness Unfolds was recorded in 2013, it was just released in April after the band essentially imploded once the album was done. Gone were vocalist/guitarist Pascal Moraux, bassist Frederic Kienen and drummer Oliwar, leaving only lead guitarist Warnacht to rebuild the band from the ground up.
But with a new lineup now complete, Blackness Unfolds is finally seeing the light of day. Yet whatever differences prompted the original lineup to splinter aren't readily apparent on the album. While there's nothing terribly fancy or adventurous about Zarden's sound, for no bullshit, balls-out black/death metal, these guys - or I guess I should say “those” guys - more than deliver the goods.
Blackness Unfolds recalls the early days of Mayhem and Dissection - with modest traces of vintage thrash and death metal - in its somewhat crude, but certainly effective, riffage and determined chugging pace. Warnacht and Moraux are lockstep tight here, mixing a slashing tremolo attack with abundant chunky hooks and a surprising amount of melody that they are able to roughen up with their brutish delivery.
“The Beserker” kicks the album off in an almost Sodom-like burst of old school thrash aggression before the blackened inclinations take over with the ironically titled “Reborn” and “Afterlife,” with the latter showing a bit of Dark Funeral-like dexterity and fire. “Slave To The Moon,” “Among The Dead” and “Empty Skies” add some complexity with their surge-and-slack pace and more epic construction.
For all of its bygone propensities, Blackness Unfolds boasts a clean, crisp and quite modern production, which gives the album a good deal of punch. A more low-fi “necro” approach might have left it sounding like mere idol worship, or worse. Instead, the bold sound gives the material a vitality and power that – for the most part - makes it stand on its own.
What the future holds for Zardens, and how the band will sound next time around – provided the new lineup holds together – remains to be seen. But the “other” guys set the bar pretty high for the “new” guys with Blackness Unfolds.