Reviewed: June, 2018
Released: 2018, Non Serviam Records
Rating: 4 / 5
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Though this Swiss quintet has been around for the better part of a decade, and have already issued three albums and an EP, they’ve pretty much flown under my radar screen, other than seeing their name mentioned from time to time. I hadn’t really heard much, if any, of their music until Emptiness Fills The Void turned up in my e-mail box a little while back. And now it would seem I have a bit of catching up to do.
With its Daniel Seagrave painted cover – always a promising start – Emptiness is an attention-grabber before the needle even drops, and when it does the band set out to prove the rad packaging isn’t just lipstick on a pig, as it were. And it is far from it. Emptiness is accomplished and ambitious blackened death metal that takes the template crafted by Dissection and others in the mid-’90s and gives it a distinctive, contemporary feel and vibe – while retaining some of the old-school black majesty.
The nearly seven-minute opener “Through The Dark Gates” adds splashes of acoustic guitar and supple, Iron Maiden-like tandem leads and Keep of Kalessin-like complexity – and, so it would seem, conceptualizing – to its blast beat-fueled clamor highlighted by frontman Romain Negro and guitarist Johan Smith’s growl-and-scream caterwauling. “Circular Infinity” and “The Eclipsist” offer more of the same in a somewhat tidier package, but for the most part Emptiness is pretty dynamic stuff, with lots of moving parts and plenty of depth.
The guitar work here, from Smith and Duran Bathijaon, is worth noting in that it shows a lot more dexterity and guile than one generally expects from “blackened death metal,” especially on more involved tracks like the Emperor-ish “Nonexistence,” the tech-deathy “Lawless,” or the short but sweet instrumental “The Chasm Of Eternity.” And it gives Emptiness a certain panache and even “classiness” that certainly sets it apart.
After the comparatively straight-forward black metal ferocity of “Shattered Universe,” Emptiness concludes with its magnum opus, the 11-minute “Children Of The Obsidian Light.” Here, the complexity and intricacy are ratcheted up, some narration is added and everything is taken to the nth, an approach that yet again is somewhat out of character for this manner of extreme metal. And though the last third of the song is essentially a solo-studded jam, it still brings the album to a triumphant end.
Stortregn’s instrumental daring and lack of concern for convention are in many ways refreshing, even the band’s performance can seem a bit indulgent at times. But by eschewing the usual symphonic easy way out and just playing their asses off they make a genuine statement here, one that warrants further investigation into their back catalog for the unfamiliar, such as myself.
1. Through The Dark Gates
2. Circular Infinity
3. The Forge
5. The Chasm Of Eternity
7. The Eclipsist
8. Shattered Universe
9. Children Of The Obsidian Light
Romain Negro – vocals
Johan Smith – lead and acoustic guitars, backing vocals
Duran Bathijaon – lead guitars
Manu Barrios – bass
Sam Jakubec – drums