Underdark – MS and IC Tackle ‘Mourning Cloak’.
Photo credit – Maddie Rigby.
June of this year marked the debut release of Nottingham based Black Metal/Post-Metal band, Underdark. A band whose interest in the more obscure and or extreme, as well as as progressive forms of Rock and Metal music has yielded the EP, Mourning Cloak.
The band cite the likes of Deafheaven, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Envy and Cult Of Luna, among others from the world of the progressive and progressively heavy. Music in this large and diverse epoch has increased exponentially in its popularity on the underground in recent years, which is of course fantastic but not without its criticisms, prospective or contemporary.
As an epoch our US-based writer IC has a vested interest in and it being an area I find myself focussing on more within my own leisure listening, we decided to tackle this one together to both collect and contrast our own individual opinions. – MS.
IC on Mourning Cloak:
Underdark throws their collective hat into the ring as another band that rehashes the long-standing, though frequently questioned and considerably tenuous connection between Black Metal and Punk.
Where you might not hear riddles of D-Beats and sinister, moshy riffs, you’ll hear the decadence of glossy production drawn from Post-Rock and Shoegaze and jangly guitar tones drawn from the Kurt Ballou (Converge, God City Studio) handbook. Howling Black Metal vocals a la Wolves In The Throne Room are placed carefully over droning, reverby instrumentation.
What strikes the listener before anything is the honesty of the music itself. Underdark steps beyond the pretentious ilk of the likes of Deafheaven or Liturgy and offer a fairly straightforward iteration of a recently popularised style of music thats been diluted by washy writing styles and leaning too far away from the enjoyable aspects of Black Metal.
Clean guitar passages, such as the one on ‘Bank of Roses’ might’ve fallen a little flat at first listen, standing a little dull and overtly twinkly, yet placed in a convenient and enjoyable place on the track that feels more and more correct as the melody blossoms, cuts to quietude and brings everything back around for a particularly “shoegazey”, flowery climax that for better or worst, might remind you a bit of something off of Sunbather or any similar “black-gaze” stylistics.
For me, I feel that someone who just got into this kind of music, they’re a fantastic entry point and they’re better than most of their contemporaries with all the pieces at hand to construct their fanbase. What Underdark currently have at their disposal is both well constructed and musically tight, but the band still have plenty of ground to break and I sincerely hope they do so.
Photo credit – James Robert Birtwhistle.
MS on Mourning Cloak:
‘Bank Of Roses’ has a very classic introduction, far reaching almost soaring melodic guitar leads contrast well with the Black Metal vocal style but at the same time can be said to be taking something away from it. As the song progresses, its plot thickens with a harder sound, albeit slowly, coming to fruition. The extended crescendo-styled guitars between vocal verses are satisfying however, more so as the song becomes more grounded.
The stronger production values are more inline with those into a more traditional Post-Metal or Post-Rock sound with the more dulcet sections on point. Those preferring the more intense and crushing elements may find it lacking however. That said, if you’re after an epic, slow-moving soundtrack, it works well.
Fans of the sadly defunct Hardcore Punk/Post-Metal crossover band, Rinoa, will find something in the above but more so in the middle track, ‘Span Of Nihilty’. Listeners will find and feel the honest aesthetic the band emanate in the melodies and thudding progression.
‘With Bruised And Bloodied Feet’ is far more rounded and those who enjoy the Black Metal pieces of this puzzle will find themselves more satisfied with its harder vocal work and dare I say “haunting” appeal.
The melodic guitar lines are still there however, weaving their way to prominence in a chord progression that although somewhat light and fluttering, is actually very enjoyable. Again, fans of Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Post-Rock in general will find something in the latter parts of this final epic.
Mourning Cloak, is a stellar first effort and doesn’t suffer from the usual “first effort issues” in regard to sound, musicianship or mixing and actually leaves you quite satisfied overall, with admiration for what the band are piecing together even if the balance can be a touch from equal at times.
However, I agree with IC on the fact the band are better than a great deal of what is out there in this vein, but in order to build anticipation for prospective releases and step out to become more idiosyncratic and standout, there is some way to go and I too am well-behind them.
Find all things Underdark below:
- For updates and news, head to Facebook and Twitter.
- For music and merch, find Underdark on bandcamp.