Emptiness - Not for Music
Season Of Mist
Experimental Gothic Metal, Ambient
7 songs (41:44)
Release year: 2017
Bandcamp, Season Of Mist
Reviewed by Goat
Surprise of the month

I’ve not heard much of Emptiness’ discography in the past, the Enthroned-related band having existed since 1998 and released five full-lengths, but what little I’ve heard has impressed, and latest album Not for Music does too. The Belgian band play a murky, avant-garde influenced form of extreme metal that exists outside the usual black and death metal boundaries, and as such Not for Music is something of a left-hand turn into the gothic realm. Not the eurogoth variant with beauty/beast vocals and chart success, but the older, darker, gloomier genre, hints of which were present in Emptiness’ past sound but never as blatant as this. It’s still as uncomfortable and even creepy as before, but in a new way; almost like Paradise Lost and Portal combining at moments. Opener Meat Heart, for instance, begins with a choked breath and a hazy keyboard line that moves into ambience before another breath and Phorgath’s deep, disturbing rasp begins to spit out lyrics. The sense of malevolence is strong, as if the band resent your presence intruding on their world, and although there’s the post-punk skeleton of a song beneath everything, the swirling keyboards and off-kilter drumming puts this closer to a band like the much-missed Axis of Perdition in effect, although a greater darkwave influence later in the song drags it back from being that sort of completely Silent Hill-esque soundscape.

Some music tries to make you happy, a lot sad or angry – Emptiness want to make you uneasy. That sense is all over Not for Music, infecting what might otherwise be capable of being catchy or bright with a confusing, shifting base, not allowing the listener to relax. The six-minute It Might Be initially seems to be a repetition of Meat Heart in structure, but soon proves otherwise with the focus on a central fluttering beat and the surrounding murky instrumentation, even throwing in bursts of outright noise to unsettle you all the more while Phorgath whisper-growls lines like ‘her skin pours down the walls’. Circle Girl is possibly the downright scariest track, dissonant riffs hanging in the air while Phorgath’s growl grows deeper, but there’s nothing bright and cheerful about the mournful gothic rock of Your Skin Won’t Hide You, the threat implicit in the title, like The Cure and early Katatonia covering a Leviathan track. There’s something like singing at points of Digging the Sky, Phorgath’s deep voice contrasting strangely with backing near-barks atop a woozily melodic base that stops and starts again, approaching metal at points, fading away to nothingness at others.

This clearly isn’t for everyone, and even those fans of the band’s past works may hesitate a little before stepping into this very strange world. Ever, the most contentious track here, bursts out into pure darkwave and contrasts wildly with the following Let It Fall, which is the heaviest track present in conventional terms with metal riffing buried beneath the industrial dissonance. Not For Music leaves you uneasy and unsatisfied, but is somehow remarkably gripping while it lasts. It’s not at all the sort of album that you like (unless you are a deeply weird individual!) but it’s unmistakably touched by a kind of mad genius, and is the sort of album I’m glad to have heard but also don’t really want to ever hear again, even though I’ve listened to it a lot. Ultimately: if you take that as a recommendation, this album is for you!

Killing Songs :
It Might Be, Circle Girl, Your Skin Won’t Hide You
Goat quoted 80 / 100
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