It’s always worth paying attention to controversial artists, regardless of how much one subjectively enjoys what they bring to the table. A band willing to take risks and do previously unheard-of things with their instruments always have been, and always will be, the ones to steer their respective genres wherever they end up going. It’s been this way throughout history, from the bright, technicolor prog-rock explosion of the 70’s, spearheaded by the larger-than-life members of King Crimson, to the crushing rhythmic blasts that Meshuggah and their offspring create.
It’s not just that way in more progressive and heady genres, either. From the birth of deathcore progenitors Despised Icon onwards, bands like Job For A Cowboy, Veil of Maya, and The Contortionist have, at one point or another, donned the title of the most important artist to watch within the genre. Right now, however, one band looms tall above the rest, an elephant in the room that threatens to destroy everything under its titanic feet. Though their discography currently consists of less than 15 songs, since their inception and first release in 2013, they have completely terraformed the landscape of deathcore. This band is, of course, none other than the infamous Black Tongue.
Love them or hate them, it’s impossible to ignore their incredible influence. The release of Falsifier in 2013 marked a new era for deathcore: by slowing down immensely, focusing almost exclusively on midtempo groove sections and half-time breakdowns, and severely down-tuning their guitars (Black Tongue plays in drop A), the band redefined entirely what it means to be heavy. Following up with Born Hanged, an EP that further established Black Tongue’s formula and saw them playing around with song structures, the Hull-based titans then hunkered down and prepared to write their debut full-length record, The Unconquerable Dark. Now, it’s ready to be unleashed on this unsuspecting planet. Is it good? Is it heavy enough?Or has their time in the spotlight passed by, leaving them on the side of the street as the hordes of bands they’ve influenced into imitation look down on them? Simply put, yes, yes, and no.
Starting off with “Plague Worship”, one of the heaviest tracks on the album, Black Tongue immediately proves to listeners that they’re not fucking around here. A menacing intro gives way to a pummeling song riddled with breakdown after breakdown; the band seeks to pull in the audience as soon as humanly possible, and by the time the first vocal line of the song hits, the reverberating chords and bassy chugs have already seared themselves on the listener’s brain, branding them with the band’s malicious insignia and mission. Immediately following this comes “In the Wake ov the Wolf”, which stands out as a surprisingly melodic (whatever that means here) song. Dark, iridescent leads dance deftly throughout the track’s midtempo chugs, and, most surprisingly, an actual chorus rears its head on this song. It’s a strange cut from these guys, for sure, but set up next to “Plague Worship”, it immediately flips the coin to reveal the other half of Black Tongue’s sound. It’s a brilliant and brave move to show off all their cards immediately like this, and it works heavily in the band’s favor, setting the tone and pace for the rest of The Unconquerable Dark perfectly.
One of the biggest fears of many fans of the band, going into this record, has been that perhaps Black Tongue is more suited to EPs: that their slow and repetitive nature would end up being their Achille’s heel, dooming them to being a band forever cursed to have a negative association with long-form releases. By moderating their sound and tempering their pace as they have, the band has entirely sidestepped this problem. The nine tracks that make up their debut LP each have a significantly different feel to them, but all maintain that signature beatdown deathcore sound and use of monstrous groove to bolster their breakdowns onto a different level of heaviness. “Vermintide”, the album’s midpoint, refreshes everything quite nicely as well: the only track to feature any guests, it throws a curveball by having Eddie Hermida (formerly of All Shall Perish and currently the vocalist of Suicide Silence) deliver a short, yet entirely memorable, verse. His piercing highs cut through the sludgy slough to add a level of diversity to their sound that kickstarts the listener’s excitement once again for the album’s B-side. This album isn’t front-loaded, either. The backside of the record is just as enjoyable and heavy.
It says quite a lot about Black Tongue’s songwriting ability that they’ve managed to create such an elegant simplicity in a genre renowned for albums that seem to want nothing more than to just repeatedly bash the listener’s ears in on track after track. Held up by great performances from every instrument, and dragged forward like some infernal machine of medieval siege warfare by Alex Teyen’s cavernous vocals, these British brutalizers have proven here that they know their weak points, and, more importantly, what to do to protect them. “All will fall,” bellows Teyen in the opening track, and his words ring true: Black Tongue are on the warpath, and on The Unconquerable Dark, they show there’s nothing anybody can do to stop them from continuing their aural assault. Unconquerable, indeed.
Black Tongue – The Unconquerable Dark gets…