Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Darkspace - III I
Avantgade Music, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

1. Dark 4.18
2. Dark 4.19
3. Dark 4.20

Darkspace's wait of six years before putting together the follow-up to "III" has easily made this one of the most anticipated albums of 2014. After "III" came out it launched Darkspace into a whole new realm of status it seemed. I remember discussing "II" with people when it was released and how we all really enjoyed it, but "III" really overwhelmed any of our previous expectations. The real question became if it could be done again. Darkspace is the type of project that is always trying to out think the expectations of their fanbase and for that I applaud them, its not a challenge many would take on. The first hints of a new release came in this form:

-.. .- .-. -.- … .–. .- -.-. . / -.-. .- .-.. .-.. .. -. –. / -.. … … -.-. .-.-.- / — .. … … .. — -. —… / -.. .- .-. -.- / … .–. .- -.-. . / .. .. .. .. / . -. -.-. — ..- -. – . .-. .-.-.- / –. . — / -.-. — — .-. -.. .. -. .- – . … —… / ….- -…. .-.-.- —-. ….- —– ….. .—- –..– / –… .-.-.- ….- ….- …– —-. -…. .-.-.- / – .. — . —… / —– -…. ..— ..— —– —– -… … . .–. .—- ….- .-.-.- / . -. -.. / — ..-. / – .-. .- -. … — .. … … .. — -. .-.-.-

The Morse Code simply had a date and location in the form of longitude and latitude. It was an announcement for the CD release concert for this album, wherein they would perform the whole album live. With some orders of this release they came with postcards that featured pictures taken from this monumental show. I was lucky enough to get such an edition with my limited edition digipak, of which I own #285. I am debating also getting the slipcase edition, which I know will be imminent, simply to match my previous set of the other albums.

While "Dark Space III I" really does continue that journey from "III" rather seamlessly, the format is more closely related to "II" in the sense that there are only three songs which encompass over an hour of music. "III I" has a slightly different feel to the music and here we can see some upgrades to the recording quality have taken place. These aren't bad upgrades, and the production still falls into the harsh realms of Paysage d'Hiver, which we all love, but the drum programming is certainly a lot better this time around. The compositions stay very true the Darkspace atmosphere. When Avantgarde announced the albums imminence they made a comment about this being the darkest of the four and in many ways that's fairly true. The application of the ambiance in a lot of the interior spaces of the songs creates a far more bleak and desolate feel, like being lost in space or trying to traverse the Great Rift. "Dark 4.19" has a much larger infusion of the Industrial style as well, but the entire interior of the song is some of the darkest on the album, so it's an odd blend. There are far more chugging power chord riffs common to an Industrial Metal band than we find in Black Metal. This is probably partly due to the success of Dark "3.16" which had one of the greatest transitions to their vicious style of Atmospheric Black Metal. At times I feel like some of this approach to their music is a bit overdone. The real reason is that this kind of riffing style acts more as
a build up rather than a backbone of a song for this style. Also, it doesn't generate a feeling of desolation or darkness, which is usually why I go after these albums in the first place. Adding spacey ambiance doesn't save the mood with those kinds of riffs, unfortunately. They serve to evoke a more powerful type of presence, but it doesn't, necessarily, have the same atmospheric qualities of the rest of the material. Luckily, this experiment stays within the bounds of "Dark 4.19". It really is the only thing I found slightly out of place on the album. Don't worry, the usual style isn't lost on us and it truly rears its head with "Dark 4.20", which is such an immense closer to the album. The section where they build with the muted chords is simply punishing and really grows with the atmosphere. "Dark 4.20" is Darkspace perfection, it has that perfect blend of ambiance Industrial structuring, and Atmospheric Black Metal. One of the other things I noticed was the approach of the arpeggiated leads, but played a bit faster, or more prominently. These arpeggios are fairly common in a lot of sci-fi films, so it really fits with the concept a lot. After hearing them a few times, I felt it fit in the musical space a bit better than when I first encountered them on the album. Their usual slow and space inducing leads are still ever present. The type of thing we heard a lot during the Sun of the Blind material, which is one of the reasons Darkspace has such a special atmosphere.

Despite my minor quibble Darkspace have certainly released one of the best albums of this year. It likely is the best in the grand scheme of things. Few bands could ever compete with something this monumental. The album opens with what sounds like laser fire, and I actually think it sounds like the laser fire from Terminator 2's opening scenes, which wouldn't surprise me. Then to go on and take on the challenge of writing nearly twenty and thirty minute long songs... its just such a massive undertaking for a musician. So, despite the fact I felt like one riff was a bit out of place, the entirety of this album is incredible. Darkspace isn't content just to give us more of the same, they're going to try to push things a little bit, at the very least. If you buy, at least, one album this year, you couldn't go wrong with this being the one as far as I'm concerned. As usual, an exceptional performance which gets even deeper over time.

Below is the picture of the back of the postcards!

Darkspace - -1 (Re-recorded)
Avantgarde Music, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

1. Dark -1.-1
2. Dark -1.0

After four years of silence from the immense "Dark Space III" the band has done a curious thing and returned to their demo days to entirely re-record the demo material.  This can go either way sometimes, because on the one hand you'll potentially lose that initial spark that prompted the recording of the demo in the first place, but then on the other hand you have a lot of experience with writing and recording now, so things could greatly be improved upon.  Luckily I think Darkspace's revisiting the demo days has the latter effect.

In a curious fashion Avantgarde has published this in a sort of digi-sleeve format.  It's a nice layout and fits with all the prior releases.  When you open the digi-sleeve you see the original art work for the demo, which I definitely appreciated seeing.  The first thing I noticed was the difference in the track times.  "Dark -1.-1" is now nearly three minutes longer, so changes have certainly been made.  Unfortunately, one of those changes was not removing the out of place riff.  I might be mistaken, or they are just more prominent, but there seem to be a lot more lead guitar parts on this from the original demo days.  They really give it that more modern Darkspace feel.  During the Mayhem section I was a little disappointed that the bass is so far in the background, because that's really what made that section stand out quite a bit.  The outro to this song sounds lot like the rhythm played on Zyklon's "Transcendental War", always a good closer no matter the application.

"Dark -1.0" sounds far stronger and more intense with the re-worked production.  It has everything I loved about the track, but it is just amped up in its quality of execution.  I think very little has changed with this track.

In the end I have to say this is a very successful revisiting of the early material.  It sounds a lot stronger and even a lot more atmospheric, which is probably what the original intention was anyway.  I, personally, have much preferred a fourth album from the band, but being the die hard fan I am I'll take anything new from them.

Darkspace - Dark Space III
Avantgarde Music, 2008
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Dark 3.11
2. Dark 3.12
3. Dark 3.13
4. Dark 3.14
5. Dark 3.16
6. Dark 3.17

After three years of quiet activity from Paysage d'Hiver and Darkspace we are finally treated to this new magnum opus from the project.  I really do mean magnum opus here, for if you thought Darkspace finally managed to harness their power with the second album, you really haven't heard anything yet.

Darkspace have taken what they finally harnessed on "Dark Space II" and really refined that essence so much more to present "Dark Space III" in all of it's awe inspiring atmosphere.  They bring back a lot of the things that really worked on "Dark Space II", so if you really enjoyed that cleaner guitar tone blended with the slow moving massive rhythm guitars then you certainly get it here as well.  As before the lead sections really make this type of music fascinating to listen to, but they don't run leads over all the parts, which is a little different from "Dark Space II".  On this one sometimes the rhythm section will just play and you just hear the intense and vicious Black Metal amidst all this dense atmosphere, it really does make for quite the experience.  In "Dark 3.12" there is a section that just ups the heaviness by chugging through a section of the song and it really works very well.  I think this is the type of thing Wroth was trying to present on Paysage d'Hiver, but he really managed to blend it into these compositions extremely well.  It doesn't feel out of place, but it does up the intensity at just the right moment of the song.  In fact that chugging type of section is used all over this release and it really just makes the whole thing sound monstrous in its presentation.  I even think they've leaned on the Industrial scene a little bit for some of the atmospheres, because "Dark 3.14's" opening moments feel reminiscent of Hocico.  I think a lot of these elements managed to culminate in the form of "Dark 3.16", which really has everything I love about Darkspace written into a single track.

One thing that also stood out for this release was the production and what they've managed to do with the drums.  I think this is where they've really managed to harness the drum machine.  They are actually syncopating sections during the heavier riffs and throwing in more drum roll sections to make the listen far more interesting.  It makes for a more interesting listen, similar to what Limbonic Art has always done.  The vocals stand out a lot more in this mix as well and you can really hear the vicious and tortured screams.  Before they were always a bit too much in the background, but that also lended to the atmosphere the band was trying to present.  On here though the more prominent vocals really add to the haunting and tortured nature of their sound.  It makes for a more vicious atmosphere amidst the dense immersion.

As you can tell, amidst all the tweaks for this release, we have a clear contender for album of the year on our hands.  Nothing else has really been produced up to this magnitude, so Darkspace must clearly stand above the rest in a real stand out release.  I don't think anything else will be released this year that can even begin to match the sheer quality and atmosphere.  Clearly this is a must have for any Black Metal collection.

Darkspace - Dark Space II
Hunter of the Dark, 2005
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Dark 2.8
2. Dark 2.9
3. Dark 2.10

This is the release that really got Darkspace noticed.  It was released only a year later by Avantgarde Music in a beautiful slipcase that matched the "Dark Space I" re-release.  This is where the trio behind Darkspace really started to harness the power of writing.  Despite there only being three tracks on this release, in typical Paysage d'Hiver fashion the tracks are of epic length, two clock in at over twenty minutes!

I am not surprised this is the release that really put Darkspace on the main stage of Black Metal fans, this is, after all, the release I've been waiting for them to create.  As soon as "Dark 2.8" begins you get the sense that they've really figured out how to generate that atmosphere related to the expanse of space they so sorely were after.  They've really managed to capture and entrancing yet very textured atmosphere for the listener to become immersed in.  The entire track is structured around the heavily distorted rhythm section playing some slow moving riffs for the first half of the song, then speeds up later.  But the lead section is what really generates the textures here.  In the first part it sounds like a nicely layered clean guitar setting and it feels reminiscent to some of the slower material Morgoth used in "Odium".  It's a sound I rarely hear bands use, so it really stands out to me when I hear it. During the faster sections I think it switches to a distorted lead guitar, but again, this is what really drives the song.  The uncompromising punishing rhythms played at top speed really put the listener into a trance like state due their lack of change.  While you sit in this immersed noise the lead section really stands out and really gives things a very expansive feel.  This is really why I think they managed to capture that atmosphere of space, because travelling beyond the Earth is all of these things.  "Dark 2.9" is very different, in the sense that is strictly an Ambient track.  At the very least it does keep us immersed in the dense atmosphere.  It is rife with samples so it gives a very eerie quality to the music.  "Dark 2.10" wastes no time in launching us into an intense journey.  This is by far the fastest and most vicious sounding track on the album, but it still retains a great atmospheric presence.  I feel this is something they didn't do as well on the first album, but managed to sort out the wrinkles with this release.

"Dark Space II" is truly a monumental release for the world of Atmospheric Black Metal.  It maintains an extensively dense atmosphere that listeners must "journey" through to really experience the quality of music being performed within.  It is both uncompromising and beautiful all at once.  I feel that with this presentation they've managed to really distance themselves from the Mysticum style that they were drawing from originally.  They've actually managed to grow beyond their influences and present something really different this time around.  Granted the Paysage d'Hiver essence is ever present, but that can't really be helped.  Be that as it may,  I do feel the projects are distinctly different from each other with the release of this album and only areas of influence come from Wroth's other project.

Darkspace - Dark Space I
Haunter of the Dark, 2003
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Dark 1.1
2. Dark 1.2
3. Dark 1.3
4. Dark 1.4
5. Dark 1.5
6. Dark 1.6
7. Dark 1.7

After a year Darkspace had a full length ready to be released, which they did and limited to 500 copies.  By around 2006 they had gotten enough renown to capture the eye of Avantgarde Music and this was re-released along with "Dark Space II".  I own the Avantgarde versions of this material and they come in beautiful re-editions with a slipcase that is every bit a space feel to them.

Darkspace has really improved from last years demo, there are still some bumpy parts, but they've really managed to harness some good atmosphere.  Unfortunately, I'm not sure they're really capturing the atmosphere for the darkness and expansiveness of space yet.  At this time I feel like they are blending Paysage d'Hiver with some Mysticum styled Black Metal.  Darkspace's material is certainly faster and quite a bit more intense sounding than Paysage d'Hiver though.  There are sections that are patently Atmospheric material taken right from the book of Paysage d'Hiver though, which is really entrancing material.  Still there are riffs that I just feel are out of place like in "Dark 1.4".  The opening riff just feels off, but then they never use it again in the song and the song takes on a wonderful atmosphere and winds up being an incredible track.  These ups and downs on the album sort of mar the experience for me.  I see where their ideas are going and a lot of them are quite exceptional, but I'm not sure they've really mastered the songwriting craft that is needed to really immerse their listeners.  A lot of times a very compelling rhythm will be laid down and then these incredible lead sections will play over it.  These sections are just masterfully done and I really want to hear them do more of that.  Interspersed throughout the recording are haunting samples from movies or TV that really set a great stage for the album.  I love the fact that they're using this stuff.

"Dark Space I" is an incredible listen and it's very different from a lot of material being produced now.  It certainly stands on the shoulders of Paysage d'Hivers "Winterkaelte", but the additions to that sound make this a very different experience.  I really want to hear what Darkspace does next, because, like Paysage d'Hiver, their writing is trending in a very strong direction.  I expect monumental things from this project in the future!

Darkspace - -1
Self-Released, 2002
Genre: Black Metal

1. Dark -1.1
2. Dark -1.0

I don't know exactly when this project was conceived or who of the three members really started it, but it would feature the highly prolific musician Wintherr (called Wroth in this project) from Pasyage d'Hiver. Due to the massively successful "Winterkaelte" I was hoping for something equally impressive from Darkspace.  It was first released as a download from their website and that's how I wound up with these mp3's.

With a name like Darkspace I was expecting some far more space oriented Ambient Black Metal, but I'm not sure this demo really achieves that.  Certainly not in the cased of "-1.1", which is an extremely fast and vicious song.  The early parts are up there with Mysticum, but they lack the catchiness that Mysticum managed to harness.  Around half way through the song cuts off and some ambiance plays through with a sort of techno-ish drum being playing underneath, then abruptly switches into a guitar line that is extremely out of place.  Then suddenly it switches again into some serious Mayhem worship of "De Mysteriis dom Sathanas" era and sounds exceptional... then switches back to the out of place guitar line again for some reason.  I think this song would have succeeded far more if they simply removed that one guitar line that doesn't work in the track, because it really breaks up that immersive feel to the music.

The second track is far more successful at getting across that space related Atmospheric Black Metal I was really expecting from the likes of Darkspace.  It starts off with some general ambiance with a hard techno beat underneath while a sample plays over it.  (I think the sample is from the movie Dark City... or at least that's what the dialogue reminds me of.)  Those hard chugging riffs Wroth uses on Paysage d'Hiver show up here in a much stronger application.  I'm not quite sure the vocals fit on this song too well, unfortunately, because they are almost a style of spoken word with distortion effects on the vocals.  I suppose I can't complain because this track is far more what I was expecting from the project and it also has a very immersive atmosphere.  The Ambient and FX choices used throughout the song are really well chosen and really helps keep the song cohesive.

In the end the demo has mixed attributes.  Due to Wroth's penchant for experimentation with this kind of stuff I am looking forward to what this project has in store for us next.  Maybe working with Zhaaral and Zorg will help with harnessing better arrangement choices.  I would say I am definitely intrigued by this project and I really would like to hear more from it.

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