I'd like to start out by making an obscene hand gesture at the month of February for making this month's Metal Miser pick legitimately difficult. Between older albums that have been sitting on the list for far too long, coupled with many new additions thanks to a glut of killer 2018 releases, selecting the one album that HAD to be added to my collection this month was hard on another level. But of every album on steady rotation in the beater mobile right now, it was 'Black Soil,' the brand new LP from Sweden's Apathy Noir, that I just kept coming back to time and again. A quick check of my pathetic PayPal balance, a message to the band to see if they'd sign a copy of the album for me, a few sweet clicks later and boom: some top quality death/doom was on its way to casa JPR So much is done right on Black Soil that I hardly know where to start. What struck me first about this album is the strength of the main riffs within each track. As deeply distorted guitars, morose keys and Andy Walmsley's growls, screams, cleans and whispers develop and expand upon Viktor Jonas' compositions, those main riffs serve to bind the individual tracks together; ultimately serving to create cohesion and harmony throughout the album. The Glass Delusion opens with descending synth notes that harken back to Faith-era Cure, before giving way to double bass drums, an impassioned scream and a four note riff that Jonas revisits and reinterprets as the track progresses; proving just how effective and satisfying a simple lead can be.
Speaking of leads, Jonas' electric mournfully winds its way through 'Samsara,' a track punctuated by Walmsley's blackened screams and interludes of folk-infused acoustic guitar and flute. As bass and drums join the fray, the track morphs into a mid-tempo head snapper before dissolving back into the acoustics and then into nothing. There is a sense that there is a give and take (as opposed to a push and pull) relationship between the dark and light moments on the album. Though the emphasis is certainly on the melancholic and heavy, the incorporation of softer or lighter motifs within individual tracks serves to contrast and flush out the harsh elements wonderfully. This is perhaps done to greatest effect on the title track; especially in its pensive, somber flute-lead coda which followed 7 plus minutes of alternating rage and remorse. If you twist my arm and make me pick a favorite track, it's The Void Which Binds. "No man is an island, except by his own choice/ For we are all united by the substance of the void." This recognition that so many struggle with the same feelings of disassociation and loss, and is therefore an invisible commonality, is both astute and timely. Delivered through a track that burns slowly and breaks in the middle for a passage that may be the specter of Love Suite by Nirvana (U.K.) and you have a piece of music that shines in the darkest possible way. What I was left with, especially after listening to all of Apathy Noir's albums in succession, was the sense that 'Black Soil' is something more than just the next natural step in Jonas evolution as a musician and composer, it is a massive leap forward. If the strength and merit of an album can be determined by how rewarding successive listens are, then 'Black Soil' is a doom-filled powerhouse, and Apathy Noir is all-together deserving of your attention. So where are we at with this month's pick, loyal Abyss reader? If you haven't experienced Apathy Noir for yourself yet, head on over to their Bandcamp and listen to their entire discography. While you obviously know what my favorite album of theirs is, I also strongly recommend 'A Silent Nowhere,' the band's first LP. And by all means, stop on back here once you're done and let us know what you think. Rage on! JPR