There is a fine line between melodic and crusty bands. You can write a good melody that can really shine, but it can easily get really grungy and dirty with the right production on it. There’s something similar between death and doom. Just because you slow down a death metal song doesn’t make it doom, nor does really distorting your doom vocals make it a death metal song. There are these little sweet spots you have to hit to ride the line between them. Few records can walk this path like the latest record from The Drowning, The Radiant Dark.
The Drowning have been straddling these lines since their first release in 2005. It’s a wonderful blend of styles that comes together in this nice little package everyone can enjoy. There’s a lot of melody and high production values combined with some fairly crusty tones that can get really dirty when it wants to. It’s a wonderful combination of these sounds that makes the band and the record stand out from the crowd.
On a technical level, this record really shines for a lot of reasons. Guitarists Jason Hodges and Mike Hitchens write some truly beautiful melodic lines. The production allows the rhythm instruments to come through, and pumping up the bass on a record like this is a very good idea to give everything that little extra heft it needs. But the aspect that really sticks out to me are the drums. Steve Hart is clearly an incredibly talented drummer and is of course aided by equally talented bandmates. But his contribution to these tracks give the songs direction in a way that the other instruments just can’t do. Both his rhythms and fills just add something a little extra to each song that propels the tracks to heights that they couldn’t achieve without.
Equally brilliant is the atmosphere this group creates on The Radiant Dark. There is a melancholy to each track that sets this band apart from their contemporaries. It’s very much about the guitar melodies, but the production also provides as much tragedy as those two. What makes it even more special is Matt Small’s vocals. It’s not aggressive and distorted just the sake of it, at least not in the context of the record. It gives the sad atmosphere a little anger and energy, like it’s being directed at something.
I suppose at this point there’s just one word that describes all of The Radiant Dark: unique. The Drowning is taking a growing subgenre and making it their own. It is the true amalgamation implied by the title “death-doom”. It really marries the melancholy of doom metal and the aggression of death metal into a package that’s wholly original. The melodies and production on each song produce an atmosphere that’s unlike anything on any other death-doom record. It’s increasingly difficult to describe what you hear on this record in anything other than totally glowing words and flowery language. If you haven’t heard the Drowning before, there’s a lot more to binge other than The Radiant Dark as well. However, The Radiant Dark is where you’ll want to start.
The Radiant Dark is available Nov. 8 via Transcending Obscurity Records.