The subject of black metal today is somewhat of a controversial hot potato. Over the past two decades, the genre has exponentially grown, both sonically and aesthetically.
More and more artists continue to stray as far away from its bleak origins as possible, attempting to diversify and revitalise a musical style often perceived as quite limiting.
One band usually overlooked when discussing this modern eclectic approach to black metal, and active long before the more global exposure, is Ireland’s Altar Of Plagues. Their crushing yet nuanced sound predates a vast majority of today’s ‘blackgazers’, such as Deafheaven and Liturgy.
The torch has since been passed to God Alone – a relatively new Irish act who cite their aforementioned predecessors as a key influence. To describe their new self-titled EP as ‘blackgaze’ is to do the group a complete disservice, broadly painting what are densely layered pieces with far too broad of a brush.
Clocking in at over 32 minutes, these four tracks have the length, breadth, cohesion, symmetry, and emotion of a full-length album. Opener and lead single, ‘Feeling On Tic’, is a caustic amalgam of screamo, black metal, and math rock; not so much breaking down the barriers of genre, but rather melting them into complex and hallucinatory facets.
Citing ‘Antidotes’, the debut album from Foals, as primarily influencing these tracks; there’s a precise and captivating approach to math rock and dance punk, which adds several dimensions to these cascading movements. Giving equal nods to renowned Irish post-rock acts such as Adebisi Shank and Enemies, these songs segue fluidly through audible minefields, at times abrasive to the point of distress whilst simultaneously warm, inviting, and serene.
Musically precise, but never flashy, every minute detail seems poured over to the last degree. From the keys utilised towards the latter half of ‘Madting’ to the disarmingly beautiful passage leading to the cathartic finale of ‘Yes Aii’, this is music born of gloom and emotive despair, with a shimmering promise of light at the end of a claustrophobic tunnel.
With a genre at risk of formulaic pitfalls, God Alone have challenged themselves to pull from all corners of their creative spectrums to offer a staggeringly cohesive and powerful collection of material. Familiar and refreshing, alien but welcome, and grim yet gorgeous, the continuous reshaping of a potentially stagnant genre lies very safely in the hands of a group of friends from a small Irish city.