The term ‘symphonic death metal’ usually triggers an association with Italian orchestral masters Fleshgod Apocalypse or possibly even the Greek black/death/goth crossover of Septicflesh. It may even bring up the possibility of some of the more accessible elements of the black metal spectrum, such as Dimmu Borgir; but the band in question here, Canada’s Serene Dark, may find themselves among these luminaries if they stick to their current trajectory. While their style has yet to cement itself – their latest self-released record, Enantidromia is only the first in their current incarnation, with previous offerings Far From the Light (2013) and Anathema (2016) released under their previous name, Endemise – there’s a delightful balance between orchestration and brutality at work on this album.
This vacillation isn’t all bad, though: the musical flux imparts a sense of drama to the proceedings, and the clear thread binding the narrative together – dark, painful and isolated – does deliver a cohesive result rather than the unsettled chaos it could easily have become. “Of serpentine Form”, for example, shows the variety of styles Serene Dark encompass and assimilate in their output.
There’s also some sensitive flirtation with electronics and tasteful filtering (of the vocals especially) that very favorably likens Serene Dark to Finland’s Shade Empire. The album’s central theme – the discarding of self via suffering to attain higher levels of consciousness – is itself a lofty, ambitious subject that likewise recalls the Finnish masters of symphonic melodeath.
What Serene Dark do take total ownership of on Enantidromia is the pacing and dynamics of their arrangements: tempo changes match mood shifts and the interplay between slow melodies and fast rhythms makes for a deeply engaging listen. “Where Time Drowns Still”, for example, matches uptempo groove with drawn-out epic scale and atmospheric work.
“Hollow the heart in misery’s forge, poisoning with night, numb in apathy’s sight; you will know loss where time drowns still”. Not the most positive message, but perfectly apt in this case.
The instrumental introduction on “Dweller in the Void of the Spirit”, while short, develops into a haunting, melancholic theme on what is my personal pick on Enantidromia: the lead licks, while accomplished, never stray into thrashy bravado: these rippling arpeggios are short, surgical flourishes and neat segues between the fluctuating modes and tempos. The chanted coda closes the song in grand style: a gentle balm before the renewed assault of “Reflecting Envenomed” – itself a multidimensional, complex composition worth the attention.
All in all, whether you know the band as Serene Dark or Endemise, this latest album is a stirring reflection of inner darkness and turmoil set to a delicate, almost fragile in its complexity, arrangement of traditional and orchestral instruments. Expect great things to come.
Release date: July 17th, 2020
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