SUNLIGHT'S BANE - THE BLACKEST VOLUME: LIKE ALL THE EARTH WAS BURIED
Having the pleasure and experience to watch a band progress and evolve over time is such an engaging and humbling experience for any musician, that it almost makes you develop a second love for the craft itself. When I was first introduced to Sunlight's Bane (formerly called Traitor), I was floored and enthralled with their sonic abuses of blackened grindcore, powerviolence, and classic metalcore. Eventually, I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with this band a few times throughout my old band's short-lived life. With the release of their 2012 EP Shadowheart, I knew this was a band I felt a connection with, whose music and lyrical content resonated with me far beyond what my hardcore and youth crew peers could provide. Shadowheart was thematic, crushing, depressing, nocturnal, melodic, and above all it made a lasting impression. I knew this band was going to continue on towards greatness, and with The Blackest Volume they've proven me correct.
Fast-forward 4 years and a change in name, Sunlight's Bane have augmented and refined their sound to much more of an apocalyptic blackened grindcore machine. With the opening screams of "Praise The Venom Shield", there is no easing into this unsettling landscape of brutality. Sounding like the abandoned child of Converge, The Black Dahlia Murder, Leviathan and Unyielding Love, this track starts the album off with such unapologetic rage. It is a continuation and progression of the theatrical-mindedness of Shadowheart with every facet elevated to 11. "Begrudging Soul" and "From Heaven Wept" continue on in their darkened metalcore influences, with vocalist Nick Holland's bloody-murder banshees, yells and hollers, and distorted low-register barks showing considerable character and range. It should also be noted the guitar work throughout this album is mournfully melodic and captivating, with the drumming being complex but nuanced enough to not distract from the songwriting.
The 6th track "Dance of Thorns" is an unexpected cut, with an opening of just guitar and vocals for nearly 3 minutes before the track explodes into crushing, slow black metal. Sounding like a more hostile and volatile Xasthur, this track highlights the confidence and newfound strength and power of The Blackest Volume as opposed to Shadowheart. This track continues on and on as the mix is swallowed in a wall of distortion and feedback, perfectly transitioning into one of my favorite tracks "The Blessed Ivory Tongue". The opening of this track is surprising, and probably one of the most eye-brow raising moments on the record. Opening with what sounds like White Pony-era Deftones, this track starts off in a mid-tempo groove with whispered vocals before transitioning flawlessly into a black metal waltz. The quality of songwriting is inspiring, adventurous, and fresh.
"No Taste More Bitter" and "With Fear This Love is Given" continuously crush the listener with dissonant black metal and darkly metallic trudges. I can think of no other way to describe this listening experience other than "hellish". The latter of these two tracks surprisingly continues on with the Deftones influence (unsurprising seeing as Sunlight's Bane has covered them in the past), with this track being the most-triumphant on melodic on the track listing.
The album closes with "To Whom I Await", a personal favorite of mine. The track is the perfect closer to such an epic, engrossing listen. The melodic walls of guitar work, relentless blast beats, and tortured vocal delivery is the perfect send-off from this truly passionate, darkly intense listen. The track builds, drops off, and builds again over and over, clocking in at over 8 minutes before fading out.
The Blackest Volume is everything I wanted to see this band progress towards. Listening to this album, I feel as if I've watched this band come full circle into something beyond just a band in the midwest hardcore scene. Sunlight's Bane is a band that challenges what is expected of most black metal, grindcore, and hardcore bands of today, yet they do this without alienating listeners. At their core, Sunlight's Bane succeed because of strong, acutely-focused songwriting. I cannot recommend this album enough. The blackest volume, indeed.