“Extreme” is a word that doesn’t get used enough in the metal community; the preferred (and horribly overused) adjective being “brutal” to describe anything and everything from music to album covers to the beer you just had at the bar and I’m sick of it! The word “brutal” just makes me think of death metal, and unless you saw somebody gutted while desecrating the corpse of a loved one on your way to work, the traffic was unfortunately, not “brutal”. “Extreme” on the other hand is a word that conjures up images of pushing the limits and taking something to its logical breaking point. It is also a word used by Nairobi-based death metallers, Absence of Light, to describe their sound and after hearing their latest album, I think it fits them like a glove.
With their debut release, Vyom Chakra (a Sanskrit word for “never ending sky” or “cycle”), Absence of Light join the ranks of Bile of Man, Mind Assault and A Walk With the Wicked who also released death metal EPs earlier this year. A trio of Indians located in Kenya, the band has existed for two years and up until now has been fairly quiet outside of their own country. Now, on 11-11-11, they unleash their music to the rest of the world and what a ride it is!
From the first track, a droney atmospheric piece laced with feedback and some evil melodies weaving their way through the noise, it is very apparent the type of mood that Absence of Light are trying to create. This is darkness being pushed to the extreme and the black metal influence is palpable. However, once the first actual song, “Daksha” kicks in, the brooding darkness turns into a seething mass that relentlessly pummels the listener into submission!
Blast beats and frantic guitar riffing create a rumbling wall of sound punctuated by lead guitar lines that ebb and flow around the rhythms and give them an extra bite. Death metal is not a genre known for its atmosphere, preferring the mood to be violent and aggressive throughout; but much like progressive death metal band, Ulcerate, Absence of Light‘s guitar work creates a thick fog of sound that gets steered and guided by the drums and vocals, rather than being the focal point of the music. There is a strong sense of groove as well, with riffs being given a chance to grow, evolve and get stuck in your head before being twisted into a new form. A common ailment of extreme death metal is that it becomes a victim of it’s own ethos and riffs become a blur of technical wizardry but nothing memorable – Absence of Light have, for want of a better word, “pop sensibility”. That’s not to say that the music is repetitive or dull. Despite a lack of flashy soloing, Angad Gupta’s lead guitars enrich the overall sound and accent rather than dominate the riffing.
“Arkasodara” starts with a short acoustic intro, something to help you catch your breath before vocalist Shiv Mandavia unleashes a growl from the mouth of hell itself. The vocal performance throughout the album is solid and while they sit a little higher in the mix that I would have been comfortable with, it’s not distracting to the overall sound. The guitars on this track vary between the rolling atmospherics, rapid riffing and ghostly acoustics, all serving to create a very strong and cohesive sound.
“Kalasamhara, I” continues the extreme assault with a strong chuggy riff from rhythm guitarist Jay Patel that only begins to relent about a minute into the song, giving way to a short and brooding section before throwing you straight back into the fray. While still being heavy, it gives a little bit of a respite from the vocal barrage of the previous two tracks and sets up nicely for the album closer, “Samdhi”. This track follows the formula and provides a slow comedown from the chaos of the previous ten minutes with a soft epilogue of sorts. That’s right, Vyom Chakra clocks in at just over fifteen minutes and here I am welcoming the end, not because I dislike it but because I think any more and my head would implode.
The energy and viciousness behind Absence of Light‘s debut release bodes well for the band in the African and global metal arenas! Vyom Chakra is a solid piece of death metal and is definitely worth checking out if you like your music fast, loud, dark and extreme!
Listen to the second track, “Daksha” below:
Vyom Chakra is available for streaming and download from Absence of Light‘s Reverbnation page.