Reviewed: [July 2022]
Released [2022 Blood Blast Distribution]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
So far, I’ve received five digital copies of the promo for the debut album from North Carolina’s Blackwater Drowning – and I’m actually expecting one or two more to arrive via email around the time of its release in early July. So I almost feel obliged to review it, even if the persistent campaign could mean this is a hot-shit new band riding a wave of hype and probably doesn’t need my help, a turd sandwich desperate for attention – or simply a persistent PR effort that is giving them quite a bang for their buck.
I’d say the latter certainly applies – especially if all of the usual suspects are receiving these promos in equal quantities. Definitely makes the band hard to ignore. As for the other part of the equation, don’t know if I’d go so far as to call these guys (3) and gals (2) hot shit, more like up-and-comers. But they are definitely no turd sandwich.
Blackwater Drowning offer a bit of a mish-mash of melodic technical death metal, black metal and death/metalcore, which might not seem particularly appetizing, but works just fine here. There is a definite Black Dahlia Murder influence – especially in the twisty-turn barrage of riffs and the growl, shriek and clean vocal gymnastics of Morgan Riley, a she-beast of a frontwoman whose delivery and range seem almost super-human.
The good thing here, though, is that Blackwater don’t go overboard with obligatory cleans or, for the most part, rely on rote set-ups to build to obvious anthemic choruses, a standard “core” trope. Instead, the bulk of Sonder//Satori sticks to the brutal side of the ledger, with the closer “Voyager” being one of the rare tunes with an even ebb and flow of dramatic contrasts, as the moodiness of the intro is played against a series of vicious, blast-beaty sprints. On “The Fifth Element” the vocals are multi-tracked so the growls “harmonize” with the cleans during the run up to the choruses and all but cancel them out.
While this is Blackwater Drowning’s first full-length, the band have been around for almost a decade, with two previous EPs in their quiver, which would account for the seasoned sound here. Despite all of the ingredients, and the complexity of some of the material and the vocal interplay, it is stitched together with savvy and confidence, largely avoiding the typical “rookie” mistakes and side-stepping any temptation to overreach.
There is enough melody to make the brutality palatable, enough technicality to make the songs challenging yet not at the expense of “songiness” and enough histrionics from Riley to make her sound like three vocalists in one (think Jinjer’s Tatiana Shmailyuk crossed with the Black Dahlia’s late Trevor Strnad and Suicide Silence’s late Mitch Lucker) but without resorting to bug-eyed tunelessness. And, obviously, the band picked the right publicity team, so they have that going for them too.