Dark Suns

So the label change from Voice of Life to the uber experimental Prophecy Productions looks to have made a slight impact on this German band that displayed huge promise on their Swanlike debut. The main change? The vocals. Vocalist/drummer Niko Knappe, despite saying otherwise in an interview I did with him, has now adopted the clean Mikael Åkerfeldt-like croon fully, eschewing the former death/doom growls. The cleaner shift has affected the music also. Whereas the debut album was a far doomier sort of Rapture/ Insomnium/Swallow the Sun type effort, Existence is now a gentler, warmer, more progressive, full on display of Opeth worship, complete with very lengthy songs. Luckily, Dark Suns still have enough musical ability to make those changes not quite as alarming, and if you can get through the initial disappointment there is a sheer musical gem here.

The harsher, solemn tones of Swanlike have been muted to still be somewhat somber, but in a more artistic, often acoustic way, basically like Opeth. And while the debut album had its moments of introspection, this album lacks the rending builds and peaks such as “The Sun Beyond Your Eden”, instead being consistently based in progressively moody structures and pacing. Now there is some decent, driving guitar work as heard on “Anemone” , “Her and her Element” and the climax of “Patterns of Oblivion”, but it’s still rather tempered and definitely far less doom/death metal inspired. Where the material has benefited is its consistency, where Swanlike has some gaps in the quality, Existence, due to its softer tone, is generally better throughout, but then again there’s no real heavy peaks and valley to compare the album to. Instead the album wafts and floats with a laid back ease and morose ambiance. The album’s three lengthy centerpieces, “You, A Phantom Still”, “Patterns of Oblivion”, and “One Endless Childish Day” are all grandiose, Opethian opuses of finite skill and pacing even if missing Swanlikes‘s crushing crescendos and replacing them with gently undulating acoustic and orchestral mood shifts.

From a purely music based standpoint, disregarding the last album, Existence, has some pure brilliance on it, particularly the aforementioned lengthier tracks. “You, A Phantom Still” is wondrously artistic yet somberly progressive and Knappe’s admittedly Åkerfeldt-ish tones are spot on for the mood of the music. Twelve-minute album closer “One Endless Childish Day” is a sumptuous exercise in morose musical artistry that truly pulls at your emotions with it delicate balance of synths and rending guitars. The shorter tracks aren’t exactly chumps either as “Gently Bleeding” (although still 7 minutes long) and the dreamily eloquent “Abiding Space” are superbly crafted, regardless of genre or style. My only gripe (other than the initial displeasure comparing this to Swanlike) is that the album takes a while to get going and finds its true nature. The first three tracks (“Zero”, “A Slumbering Portrait” and “The Euphoric Sense”) warble a little, but and seem almost like musical appetizers.

If taken into context as a self contained release and you had never heard Swanlike, Existence is a sublime effort that almost requires you approach this album as new different band, because those expecting something more akin to Swanlike will be slightly disappointed. It’s almost like the change Anathema made from The Silent Enigma to Eternity; initially perturbing but eventually finding its peace with you. But if you take this album on musical merit alone it’s a genius piece of work with layers of artful musical magic to uncover.



[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
March 11th, 2005


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