Black Water Sunset – Engraved Spectral Aeons Review

The DIY spirit that drives the smaller nooks of the modern music industry, particularly the bedroom/home studio metal scene, can birth acts from the loop-driven and mechanical Cloudkicker to the weird and whimsical Veilburner.1 Not every project will come forth with that same adventurous drive or unique approach, but when the days of heavy metal headliners selling out arenas are limited to the lifespan of those who have already been there, do they have to? Regardless, for those with a will and a DAW, the hope of some kind of success still lives. Collaborators don’t even have to live near each other anymore. Such is the case for the emerging and un-experimental Black Water Sunset, comprised of the unlikely duo of Alvin Primack of Pittsburgh, PA and Darick Joyce of California (and a host of international guests). Where and how did all these people meet? Who knows?! But they’ve been hard at work crafting their debut full-length release Engraved Spectral Aeons. Though they’re not going to play an underpopulated show anytime soon at your local bowling alley bar or dirty couch-laden warehouse, can Black Water Sunset at least cast a long shadow on your ever-expanding Bandcamp collection?

Caught somewhere between a groovy progressive death summoning and a thrash-empowered melodeath drill, Black Water Sunset resurrects classic sounds in a tightly performed package, complete with a session drum appearance by veteran kit crusher George Kollias (Nile, ex-Contrarian). Unsurprisingly too, since their Picture Box EP from 2019, Black Water Sunset has also taken some time to polish up their tones, boasting a more bottom-heavy rhythm guitar drive and cone-crunching bass boom. This sound quality improvement shows during dueling bass and guitar runs like the fretboard-burning intro to “Eternal Suicide” or in the clarity of the lead work from guest virtuoso Mattias Eklundh (Freak Kitchen, Freak Guitar, and oh so many guest appearances). Though it’s lacking in the warmth and reverb of a studio capture, the clinical tones still have impact and bring plenty of edge with a buzzsaw precision.

Aggressive as it may be, riffs alone cannot always carry an album. It sounds self-explanatory to say that strong melodies make melodic death metal sticky, but, unfortunately, Black Water Sunset doesn’t seem to get that until the last couple tracks. While Eklundh’s trademark freak compression solo break that carries us from “Abyss” to “Misanthropic” brings a smile to my quirky noise-loving brain spots, it does little to establish or recall any motif. In fact, “Engraved Spectral Aeons,” which comes sixth in line and after these two tracks, holds the first strong lead melody on the whole album, and, as a result, emboldens the less freaky solo with more soaring energy. Eklundh’s name holds a lot of renown, but his alien guitar novelty can’t be all there is.

Now, normally a wavering story doesn’t cause much concern in the metalsphere, but when the melodic memorability already stumbles the lack of thematic cohesion starts to play a bigger nuisance. At its core, Enraged Spectral Aeons builds around the myth of the dybbuk from ancient Jewish lore, a form of evil and wandering trapped soul, but you wouldn’t know it from just about anything on this album. The death-thrash riffs rip (“Moonlight Immolation”) and gruesome vocals snarl (primarily by Matt Harvey of Exhumed), but they runover and ignore the introductory attempt (“Dragging the Damned”) at establishing the mystique of the dybbuk. It isn’t until the tastefully blackened closing track “Recycled” where Black Water Sunset recaptures a creeping spirituality with ghastly gothic vocal chants invoking the tortured atmosphere against their percussive and melancholy progressive death scale runs—a wonderful tune but too little too late.

Though it’s clear that the members and guests of Black Water Sunset delivered a clean and calculated package, Engraved Spectral Aeons ultimately doesn’t do enough to hook me along for the ride. I can understand why Primack and Joyce called upon the fabled Kollias for his pummeling skin slamming. Their mythological interests and melodic bombast draw from Kollias’ work in Nile and Contrarian respectively. The duo has the chops to cut something greater than this brief offering. Lucky for them, they can work on drafting the next one from the comfort of their own home studios.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: PCM2
Label: Self Released
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 3rd, 2023

Show 2 footnotes

  1. OK, yes, also every raw/atmo black metal act.
  2. Thank you Black Water Sunset!
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