Look, I’m such a fairweather fan when it comes to anything within a formaldehyde and methanol-soaked rag’s reach of something that even vaguely once resembled death metal so you’ll forgive me if this is not the review you’re looking for. I can only speak to liking this with all the authority of an ex newspaper hack that pretty much figured the lead singer on 97% of death metal releases was a very busy man that went by the name of Mr C. Monster. (And he sure did want dem cookies by the sounds of it).
But I got to Dark Divinity and their brand new debut EP, Messianic by virtue of being a fan of almost any and all things relating to the Wellington band, Into Orbit. The post-metal instrumental duo of Ian (drums) and Paul (guitars) has made plenty of pleasing music across the last half decade or so and has ventured out to explore a few side-projects too. One such project – and it’s with no disrespect to the rest of the band here (Jolene Tempest on larynx-ripping vocals, David Grinder doing exactly what his surname suggests to pulverising bass-lines and Reece Davies who twin-skins the fast and furious guitars alongside Paul Stewart) that I think of them as an Into Orbit side-project; that’s just how I arrived at it.
I do like a lot of metal and its various offshoots.
And it’s always been clear to me that Ian Moir and Paul from Into Orbit are fairly obsessed with all things metal.
So here we have a Morbid Angel-type band that is concerned with rifftastic slashes of melodic death metal.
And over 5 songs and in just 17 minutes Dark Divinity really takes the listener on a journey.
Opener, Set In Stone, marches to classic metal guitars – summoning everything from Iron Maiden to Megadeth, Ulcerate and Napalm Death – as Tempest barks and growls in and around the metronomic precision of a rhythm section that could turn on a dime. There’s, dare I say it, something almost ‘jazzy’ about the interplay here. (Meant only as a compliment to the skill of the players, fear not metalheads, there’s not even a meager hint of ‘bop’).
Vertigo is kicked off by a cascading drum-fill that is metal’s equivalent of those reggae head-scratchers Carly Barrett used to make for Marley and Scratch. How you even begin to count what Ian is up to is beyond me on such a level that I find myself right here trying to write about it and am glad he’s over there on the drum chair.
Again Tempest is whirling dervish like, her whip lock voice licking the wounds the razor-sharp guitar lines inflict on this song.
Two tunes in and we need a break from this intensity, this brilliant madness!
Cambion is 90 seconds of instrumental reset – you could call it a throwback to Into Orbit’s raison d’être, but by here the ‘voice’ of Dark Divinity as its own thing is so well established; also in just 90 seconds this is, if anything, like a power-run through of Into Orbit’s moments, the guitars here appealing to the melodic ends of prog as much as any metal intentions – in the incongruous way that I evoked jazz before (and just mentioned a reggae drummer for its own head-scratch moment) I here want to say that Cambion is almost bluesy?
But it achieves that brief-pause/reset effect and Night of The Witches pushes its way in as the door is closing. Here the band is at its brutal best I think. There’s a tune here being whipped back and forth like an errant mop late to the mosh. There’s a constant push-pull between the drums and guitars here, another idea Paul and Ian have explored through Into Obit. Here they each have supporting crew as they wrestle with the songs, stretching them like putty to make new and interesting shapes within an expected framework.
Closer, Seasons of Dark is a final ride on breakneck double-bass drums and the chortle of throaty guitars.
I’m a convert. It’s confirmed.
I love the thrill-ride Dark Divinity offers.
I’m also happy with the snack-sized EP, plenty of sustenance for me as a casually listener. Though the full meal is hopefully not too far off to give the sustenance the diehards require.
You can support Off The Tracks via PressPatron