Release length: 29:11
Dark Essence does carry a bit of a raw touch to it, which does capitalize on some of the early Black Metal ideas being incorporated. The guitars have a moderate sharpness that is a bit further in the background, and the bass is there, but nothing too powerful, largely acting as support at a moderately low volume level. This instrument seems to take a backseat more to the bass kicks of the drum kit thanks to a strong thud . The snares have a higher sound to them that comes off hollow, and a bit wooden at times, though the cymbals crash loudly and are captured well, filling the material nicely. The vocals are nothing spectacular, but get the job done well enough. They are handled in a deeper tone, but with a slight rhasp behind them. This approach is also met with shouting, and some atmospheric gutturals during “Into Frozen Passage,” as well as “Vampyr” for the ambient filled growled dialogue intro and outro (respectively).
While the audio doesn’t really come off that great, and can leave the music somewhat lifeless at times, there are plenty of moments that do stick out for this recording. “Into Frozen Passage” does a great job establishing the cold atmosphere of the release thanks to cleaner chords against the sounds of wind and storms in the background, building up the tension of a first wave Black Metal act, primarily Mercyful Fate, to kick right in with some higher falsettos or a powerful Metal presence. Instead, “Inner-Self Transfiguration” kicks in with a moderately faster pace with somewhat blasting passages that find a heavy focus on the louder and wooden snares that can drown out a good deal of the release. This becomes a burden at first, but as you make your way through the track, they do start to fall into place better. The guitar chords do an excellent job at continuing the atmosphere from the previous song, but in more of a traditional second generation approach with a little extra aggression behind it. The vocals work well enough for the song, creating more of a ritualistic tone to the EP, something that is often just subtle to the music.
“Into the Unknown,” however, finds some really commanding passages that push the aforementioned subtle environment to the forefront, as well as establishing that this is just meant to be creepy, and in some ways have a decent fostbitten coldness to it. The material is a lot tighter, as well as faster, allowing the harsher riffs and drumming to come through without forsaking the burdening environments in a ploy to become a hostile offering. Unfortunately, not a lot of this can be said for “Descending Towards Oblibvion.” This track finds plenty of empty moments through simpler drumming that clearly was meant to have some two-step in there somewhere, but fails to deliver enough from the bass kick to fill the material, coming off as if forcing itself to try to keep the slower beat. The random blasting is lifeless and horribly muffled while the guitar riffs do as good a job as possible over them, though shining more with a sharper sound in certain bridges. The atmosphere simply doesn’t exist, though a chill can easily be felt in the weaket of areas. This is sad considering the strong ambient offering that is the interlude track “Black Storm Invocation.”
Dark Essence isn’t really going to win over any new fans, but those already familiar with what Demonic Slaughter has to offer will definitely enjoy what the band brings with them this time around. There is a solid atmosphere throughout the album, and despite the raw, yet somewhat muffled audio, the music does take advantage of the production levels quite well for most of the its twenty-nine minutes. Again, if you approach this more in a ritualistic fashion largely through the vocals, you can gain a better appreciation for the recording and come back to it here and there. While this is an effort worth looking into if you’re fan of the style, there’s no need to put much of a rush on it. Demonic Slaughter is here to stay, and while not the most impressive of the underground, Dark Essence does show a band that is trying very hard to play the music they want to, and largely only being held back, especially this time around, by certain audio restraints.
01. Into Frozen Passage – 0:57
02. Inner-Self Transfiguation – 7:52
03. Into the Unknown – 4:06
04. Black Storm Invocation – 4:43
05. Descending Towards Oblivion – 3:33
06. Blades of Decay – 3:38
07. Vampyr – 4:22
|Overall Score: 7/10
Physical review copy of this release provided by Hellthrasher Productions.