Reviewed: October 2018
Released: September 2018 – Osmose Productions
It could be said that Vacio – Empty‘s fifth album, and their first since Etica Profana Negativa was released four years ago – is a self titled piece of work. Translated into English from their native language, Vacio is actually the Spanish word for Empty.
The album has been inspired by Julio Llamazares’ book, The Yellow Rain; on which, the band have explained that they wanted to convey “a long, bitter and fateful journey to oblivion and nothingness. Its own title reflects the nature of the message: the memory of Death, which from an ominous shadow, became a tangible and palpable presence; the blind acceptance of the fate that removes our trace and dilutes our existence in time.”
To take such a stark subject and turn it into music is no small undertaking. The band have explained that they want these songs to take the listener “to a terribly dark mental state – pessimistic but at the same time brutally realistic.” The band are eager to be separated from the common stereotypes of black metal and want their music to offer a sample of honesty and realism.
On Vacio, in order to fully realise their exploration of “the darkest corridors of the human psyche,” Empty have collaborated with some guest musicians. They have brought in a classical soprano for some songs and also, to add an additional depth to the compositions, they have employed the keyboard skills of MR.J.M. from Ataraxy.
The good news – if the high score at the top of this review hadn’t given it away already – is that Empty seem to have completely achieved all they set out to do with this collection of songs.
The music presented here is a compelling example of how accomplished musicianship can transcend the sum of it’s parts and become something much greater than a simple collection of riffs and melodies.
Masterfully, the band have captured all the possible emotional fragments of their terrifyingly bleak concept – not just the hopelessness and futility of life, but also the tranquillity and peace that death might bring – and somehow weaved it together into what could be considered a stirring and poignant tone poem to brevity of existence in a cold, endless expanse.
Arguably more than other metal genres, Black Metal succeeds on it’s ability to create a landscape in the minds eye. The atmosphere created can evoke imagined places though which we travel and experience stories.
The Yellow Rain draws us into this world with a long, keyboard driven soundscape that precedes the eventual, dramatic thrust of the first heavy song – Empty.
An incessant ships bell arouses the sense of travel and motion, as though we are on a journey through mist-covered, choppy waters. The music is densely layered; voices among the cacophony switch from a snarl to a howl and from a whisper to a guttural roar – often blended together, giving the sense of several traumatic souls calling out from the fog.
Drizzt excels on this tune with some melodic bass playing that sits underneath the arpeggiated guitar chords. These moments of gentle momentum become a sweet yet sinister Siren’s song, a beauty in the darkness that irresistibly tempts you into the album’s maelstrom.
As a contrast to the Vacio’s initial clamouring, the gentle piano refrain of We All Taste The Same To The Worms paints a picture of a cold, lonely environment where distant voices drift and sing but appear to be ever elusive. There is a dream-like distance to much of the music on the album. Much of it seems buried and unreachable while it ebbs and flows in a volatile shifting tapestry – This being the case, the effect whenever the band kick in with a focussed moment of heavy metal riffing is incredibly dramatic.
The Night Remains For Who Is, is an excellent example of this. The powerful blast beats carry the effect of drilling down to the centre of the Earth, moving further away from the mortal realm until the music shifts to an aural rendition of a warm, safe space. Musically, this song settles on a beautiful reference to Empty’s country of origin. A picked, acoustic refrain on a Spanish guitar is used to demonstrate the band’s unique voice in a heavily populated genre.
The power of Empty’s music to conjure a vivid mental image continues on The Pilgrim Of Desolation. The eerily clean, chiming guitars and detached whispers brings to mind a labyrinth of mournfully dank catacombs – far from the reach of sunlight – but there is a sense of belonging in the music. An affinity that assures kinship and offers sanctuary but also delivers a midway lurch into a blackened thrash that reminds you of the real world skills of the collective band members.
The penultimate song is the longest on the album. Filandom under the sign of misfortune is initially a slow burn that reprises the Spanish guitar and builds itself into a relentlessly pounding barrage of gothic percussion. Drizzt bellows over this and allows his voice to embody the hopelessness that the album has rooted itself in. It represents a final climactic rage before Deathlorn brings everything to a desolate but satisfying conclusion.
In summary, Vacio is a breathlessly good album and Empty have ensured their place in 2018 as the band I will be enthusiastically endorsing to any curious metalhead on the look-out for a remarkable, meaningful musical experience .
I give it my wholehearted recommendation.
01. The Yellow Rain
03. The Rope At The Mill
04. We All Taste The Same For The Worms
05. The Night Remains For Who Is
06. The Pilgrim Of Desolation
07. Filandom Under The Sign Of Misfortune
Drizzt – Voices & Bass
Orgall – Guitars
Vanth: Lead & Acoustic Guitars
Naemoth: Drums (Session)