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Circle Of Veins Tom Coles , August 15th, 2019 09:37

Circle of Veins by Sadness is anthemic and hypnotic all at once, finds Tom Coles

Black metal is infrequently bright or sprightly. When it's practitioners draw distinctions between the light and the dark they tend to lean towards shades of the night, finding its nuance in degrees of full-throated savagery or layers of permafrost. Even the Alcests of the world lace their pretty wash with sinister intent.

So it's to some surprise that we find Sadness – ultimate goth points there – writing heavenly black metal, completely submerged in keyboard reverb. To their credit, Sadness do dip into a heady violence, but it’s forgotten pretty quickly. Their overall aesthetic is a mix of competing synth and processed guitar washes, bewildering soundscapes punctuated by screeching.

Immediately the keys have an unusual presence, way up in the mix and pitched extremely high, almost shrill, every note punched through. The overall effect is something close to a very heavy Enya, or how Grimes mixed vocal layers pre-Art Angels. The result is anthemic and hypnotic all at once, diving between Darkthrone and EDM melodies.

As the record progresses the twinkly bits come into play more, the melodies forming the backbones of tracks before they’re drowned out by the incredibly busy mix. By third track, ‘Lana’, there’s a lot going on with the vocals, though it’s a little difficult to pick out amidst the heavy layers. The vocals switch between spaced-out ascending sections and a more traditional frosty howl, balanced nicely in the capture-release tradition.

The record is light on songwriting, at least in a way that matters; if there is something going on, it’s buried so deep that no light could ever reach it. Without this architecture they rely on their aesthetic. In sacrificing raw black metal’s blistering aggression, they also ditch the intellectual thrust of the dense, calculated stuff.

What Sadness do well is to take black metal’s hypnotic weightlessness and blend it with a celestial quality more brazen than their peers. What sounds like a strange decision – at worse, a massive cheesefest – soon gets blurred and mangled in the layers, and the result is a warm embrace. The record works but they’d be well-advised to space melodies out a little better. A by-product of their philosophy is that the songs are a blur, and they loose the flow of things pretty early on. Not a cardinal sin perhaps, but the record is wildly undisciplined, short on truly memorable moments.