Darkness is the most fascinatingly vast concept the universe has ever offered us, and the most terrifyingly claustrophobic. It is infinite — and nothing — all at the same time. Apply this concept to our place in the universe, and the reality of what darkness really is lies within the mind of its interpreter. It either limits our existance permanently, or expands it outward indefinitely. In the literal sense, we are neither beacons of light nor darkness, but are mere reflections of both. Take away the sun, or anything else we have construted to give off light, and we automatically have a much sharper understanding that our home, regardless of the planet on which we reside, is outer space. Excited? Horrified? Then consult Neil deGrasse Tyson. I’m only here to tell you what being stuck in the middle of nowhere, and everywhere all at the same time, would sound like.
There are a few things that the Swiss band Darkspace, one of the originators of “space black metal,” has always done consistently, such as intersecting the numbering of its tracks from album to album, maintaining themes of cosmic mysticism to its live appearances and album covers, and limiting new releases to only 500 copies. (This does not include digital downloads, obviously, because what kind of a space black metal band would Darkspace be if it didn’t allow people to pay for the music digitally?!) For those unfamiliar, Darkspace consists of three members: Wroth, who is the sole member of Paysage d’Hiver; Zhaaral, who is the sole member of Sun of the Blind; and Zorgh, of whom little is known, other than the fact that she plays bass for the project currently being reviewed. All of the members assist one another in the vocal department.
Darkspace has come further out of obscurity with each of its releases since its inception in 1999, but it wasn’t until the release of Darkspace III that the band gained widespread recognition and popularity among both space and black metal nerds alike. That’s right, I said it, this is some nerdy. fucking. shit. And it’s pretty awesome, so you can either continue reading or go angrily snuggle up with your old Gorgoroth records. The release of Darkspace III I not only demonstrates that the the band has an intriguing approach to Roman numerals, but also that the trio has expounded upon its already unique sound to even higher degrees than were displayed on Darkspace III. The album, as surprisingly accessible as it can be at times, is still not an easy thing to delve into, considering it contains only three tracks and spans nearly into 70 minute-long territory. But my, oh my, is it worth the listen…
The album’s first track, “Dark 4.18,” may indeed be the most difficult asteroid to crack, as it is Darkspace III I‘s longest and contains its most atmospherically expansive musical attributes. It’s quite difficult at times to deduce just what exactly is occuring, as the band’s three members are only credited for playing two guitars and one bass. Clearly, there is a lot of extra programming going on, and it’s quite genius. Incredibly fast-paced blast beats allow the track to hang in what would be a perfect balance of cacophony and disharmony if it weren’t for the singular and long-lasting synthesizer notes. Screams, shrieks, space sound effects and hard-to-describe noise combine with an already perfected formula to give the listener not only a unique atmosphere, but also a glimpse into something far greater than atmosphere itself.
“Dark 4.19” is, surprisingly, a lot more structured than its predecessor, and begins with a very gothic-industrial-electronic vibe. The drum programming is a lot more rhythmic at times, and the synths are much catchier because the notes are not held for nearly as long. Although it is “4.18” that may be the album’s crowning acheivement and overall strongest track, “4.19” is equally as impressive, as it manages to recreate the band’s same exact “glimpse” in an entirely new, straightforward way. “Dark 4.20” also does not disappoint, and combines a much more relaxed sense of ambiance paralleled with prevailing elements from each of the first two songs.
Aside from all of that, this is truly a case in which the inadequacy of words in general is quite obvious in the face of something so massively layered. Hell, Darkspace’s vocal department alone throws up a wall so high over the listener that they are completely wrapped up and inundated by it. At times, all of these vocal, percussion, synth, guitar and bass walls become dense to the point of head-implosion. For the majority of its duration, however, Darkspace III I allows its listener to embrace the infinite vastness that is our universe. Whatever light or darkness the stars may bring us is out of our control. Regardless… We are the beacons of pure, undulating sound, and this isn’t the soundtrack to some far away planet. This is a signal from our own planet into the infinite vastness we know only as Darkspace.