Written By: Nameless N00b_04
The word “emerge” comes with sinister connotations. Think about where things emerge from: the fog, underneath things, out of the shadows and darkness. For Philadelphia quartet Basilysk, their debut full-length comes after almost a decade of honing their craft in obscurity with a series of demos. Emergence signifies the band’s first big step into the light. They’re young, hungry, and in possession of a sound that, at times, is spellbinding. However, the totality of their Emergence leaves something to be desired and suggests maybe the band should have gestated in the shadows a little more before slithering forth.
That isn’t to say there’s nothing good about Emergence. The opener, “Molester of Dreams,” establishes the core of the album’s sound: chaotic death metal with a progressive twist based in Morbid Angel-isms mixed with Sound of Perseverance-era Death. The songs take you on journeys that wind and twist like the serpentine coils of the band’s (albeit misspelled) namesake. Each track is colored by a new kind of musical dynamic. These range from a riff in “Sinners of Their Own Reality” that sounds as though it was pulled from Devin Townsend’s Ocean Machine, the Maiden-esque twin guitar attack that begins “Fire (In the Temple of Sacrifice)” and the grindcore twist in “Sad State of the Arts.” The latter is the best song on the album, a ripper that fuses Morbid Angel, Destruction and Napalm Death. Frontman Josh Perrin is an unchained beast between his wild guitar solos and brutish vocals that remind of Aborted frontman Sven de Caluwe.
The problems with Emergence arise after repeated listens. While there are a couple of solid tracks (“Molester of Dreams,” “Sad State of the Arts”), the rest of the album fails to hold up. Emergence’s deficiencies are laid bare when the mystique of novelty and surprise wears off. The songs lack cohesion as if the music was created linearly. The riffs and solos are arranged like a puzzle, rather than flowing together. The prime example of this is “Prebirth – Karma – Afterlife,” a fifteen-minute monster of a closing track that meanders from riff to riff, solo to solo, with none of them ever cresting or going anywhere meaningful. I started skipping it after about five spins of the album, but the thing is a whopping third of the Emergence’s runtime, which leaves just thirty minutes of solid, but unfocused material.
Make no mistake, there is quality here, but it’s inconsistent and unfocused. Most of the good on this album comes as musical ideas rather than entire songs. The band lingers on certain riffs for too long at times, killing their punch on repeat listens and distracting from the more engaging moments. I keep coming back to “Sad State of the Arts” because it rips, but it is also the song that sounds the least like the rest. There are good parts through the rest of the album, like the slappy bass line in “Molester of Dreams” or the slow, Immortal-style riff in “Clouds.” “Prebirth – Karma – Afterlife” has a song’s worth of good riffs in it, but they’re spread out between sections that are at best monotonous and at worst annoying. Emergence is frustrating because these nagging issues pile up and hamper the overall listening experience.
I can recommend Emergence to those with a Morbid Angel or Death itch that needs scratching, and to any with the patience to put up with its more unfocused moments. For me though Emergence—aside from “Sad State of the Arts”—lacks the spellbinding factor for me to want to return to it. Going forward, I do want to see more of Basilysk. Emergence hints that these guys could make something brilliant with a bit more refining and focus, and I’m interested to see what they offer the next time they slither out of the shadows.