Towards Darkness is actually the reincarnation of the band The Mass. Back when they were playing a sludgier form of doom, they released an album titled Towards Darkness, but then decided to venture into funeral doom territory and changed their name. Barren is their second album.
With four tracks, the album clocks in at over 55 minutes, which means quite long songs, the last one approaching almost 20 minutes. Aside from adhering to the principles set by funeral doom, the band's sound is characterized by reams of ambient passages with keyboards stretching notes endlessly to sustain a hellish atmosphere. Acoustic guitars have a grief-ridden tone across the album; they're played very slowly and with as few notes as possible. In this sense, the band certainly oversteps the limits of funeral doom and dabbles in ambient and post-metal. When the riffs get heavy at the end of "Avenues of Manipulation," it almost sounds like an earlier ISIS song right down to the vocals. Kevin Jones employs similar tortured tone throughout the album, especially when he opts for the brutal voice, but rather than bands like Mournful Congregation or Tyranny he reminds me more of ISIS, Neurosis, and Earth.
The atmosphere the band crafts is powerful. Repetitive riffs are hammered into the mix during the heavier moments to contrast the moodier ambient sections. These sections are actually testimony to the band's grasp of dynamics and mood construction. The long acoustic guitars, when surrounded by sludgy keyboards, take on a nightmarish quality, and one cannot be sure whether vocals are actually present in the mix or not. It's a surreal experience indeed. Only when Jones utilizes his full-bodied death growls can one recognize that the song has reached its climax with the drums rolling into the mix, speeding the tempo with endless cymbal splashes and eccentric fills.
With songs being so long, the band takes their time building a sound cosmos. Sometimes they'll play the same riff or stretch the same unsettling synth note for over five minutes before the guitars cut through, keys rise to the heavens, drums pound in, slowly but forcefully, only to slow down again. It sounds very odd for sure. Again, Ulverian vocals seem to creep into the mix, but you're not sure if it's actually vocals or just your imagination. The ambient aspect is further emphasized on "Holy... Dying... Lifting..." with Neurosis style of acoustic guitars set against myriad sound manipulations, weird voiceovers that are quickly buried under the drum and bass, and static.
The band obviously cites the gods of Finnish funeral doom as their influences. Bands like Unholy, Shape of Despair, Thergothen, and Skepticism are all obvious reference points, but one should also bear in mind that this Canadian group also has an affinity with their American counterparts: early ISIS, Neurosis, and Pelican.
- The Arrival
- Avenues of Manipulation
- Holy... Dying... Lifting...