Abaddon magazine

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Review: Spectral Darkwave – At Outer Dark

Label: Occidental Records

Date: October 8th, 2021

Leaves me wondering every time how rare it is to find lyrics included in the promo package. Okay, I get that you want me to buy the record and that’s one of the ways to do so. Unless you leave the booklet without the lyrics altogether. On the other hand, you want me to make somebody else buy the record too, right? And the fact that I cannot get the whole picture might just stop me from properly evaluating the album, leaving the picture I’m painting with my words incomplete.

I can understand that you made them available online, on your website, Bandcamp page, YouTube or Metal Archives. And I don’t mind roaming around the web a bit longer. But when it comes to “At Outer Dark”, there are none. It’s not like the vocalist makes it easier to understand them. Also, the release promises oh so much in that regard. Starting from the cover artwork which brings Lovecraftian connotations, along with the stellar motifs of some sci-fi series. All of it combined, music included, really induces interest. Especially considering how much effort must have gone into creating the musical side of the album.

Not to mention the elephant sounding noises (trumpets or downright trunks, I cannot quite make out) in “The March of Sses”. You must agree that elephants are not really “metal” animals and are therefore rare guests on metal albums. Not even the fabled Tolkien’s oliphaunt’s.

And also, what the hell are the Sses that are marching there?

Adding to the confusion, just check out their videos…

You see? So many questions that I could have given answers to, if I was only provided with the lyrics sheet.

But let’s leave it alone finally. There’s no sense in bitching about it. I’ll focus on the music instead. Spectral Darkwave makes me think of three blokes from London on a vacation in Greece. While looking to taste some local delicacies, they stumble into a record store instead of a restaurant. Yet, they make the same request leaving them dumbfounded at what was thrown at them.

Joking aside, Greek monoliths such as Septic Flesh or the new age of Rotting Christ (to a lesser degree) have long since become parts of world heavy metal heritage, as opposed to being restricted to Greek borders. Hence, I would dare to say they are the prime influences for this English trio. Septic Flesh for the better part, as we are slammed with hard hitting dark metal in tune with cosmic and symphonic layers. It is also necessary to mention that these two segments are fitted to perfection creating a sonic impact on the listener that is not so often heard with new bands. Okay, Spectral Darkwave is almost a decade old, but you get what I want to say. It would seem that these guys have immensely studied the craft and came out of it with flying colors.

Truth be told, “At Outer Dark” does require some time to make itself at home. It is not a “fastball” to catch you at first spin. However, if you give it enough time, it wraps you up like a warm blanket on a cold October eve. The instrumental masterclass, arrangements that guide you through like a mother’s hand guides an infant and the production which deepens the impact to the max. All of it serves the purpose of the songs themselves. And the songs are quite good, too.

The thing is that Spectral Darkwave was able to make some fairly spectacular moments on this album. Whether they have evolved from a catchy guitar riff or an orchestral piece, when implemented on a firm rhythmic backbone these parts do touch you, and appropriately so. Even when it seems like the band is slipping into progressive waters, they do not let the current take them away, keeping the initial form of the song intact. Adding to it all a couple of memorable choruses, you get an explosive mix that can easily leave you breathless.

Now, this is only the second full length record by Spectral Darkwave, a band comprised of just three people, and relatively young ones (at least judging from the photos), but the level of creativity on display on “At Outer Dark” is already extremely high. One can only dream of what they’re capable of doing later on. But, until that “later” comes, this record is an almost mandatory listen. If only just so you can claim to your gang that you knew about them before they were famous.