Dark Psychosis – The Edge of Nowhere Review

In my year-end haze of short days, lockdown and work-related torpor, I peered nervously into the promo pool for something which may re-energize my sedentary life. An intriguing “experimental black metal” tag caught my eye and it was with this that I embarked on a review of the new album by Michigan’s Dark Psychosis. The Edge of Nowhere represents only their third full-length release since forming in 1999, and it’s a far cry from those black/thrash early days. But I will always take quality above quantity so, I reasoned, that Edge may represent years of refinement. Is this the case?

The core duality of Edge is black metal against psychedelic rock. The faster, heavier moments such as across “Dead as Sheep” have frost-bitten, Norwegian authenticity about them and are in most respects what you may expect out of black metal. However, it’s clear from the opener called “Old Fear” that more is happening here than the album artwork may suggest. The song shifts at 2:45 and the listener is plunged into a passage with a blackened feel but which features progressive, psychedelic guitar jamming and a brisk, strolling bass-line. The track builds from here, in what feels vaguely like a black metal tribute to a late 1960s psychedelic crescendo. I enjoy this psychedelic black aesthetic. Similarly, closer “New Decay & Outro” progresses with a lilting swing in its mid-paced passages and closes with an extended, synth-dominated outro which contributes to a grander, stranger feeling. It never quite reaches Hail Spirit Noir-level curiosity but it was more than enough to pique my interest on my first few listens.

It’s therefore a shame that the best songs are those which divert from this duality and instead pick one side more strongly. “Dead as Sheep” accelerates the pace from the first two tracks preceding it, boasting a Taake-inspired lead which commands the track into shorter, sharper, blackened territory. It’s the best lead on the shortest track and distances itself from overt psychedelic influences. On the other hand, “Late Night” features the most obviously psychedelic introduction. Whining distortion and backing keyboards permeate the atmosphere, while the jamming guitar and bigger chorus melody dominate the mix. This is the only track where the noodling guitar is allowed into a higher tier of the mix, rather than being suppressed next to the bass, and it’s all the more singular for it. Add to this a memorable chorus hook and it’s easily the best track on show.

I like the concept of the blackened psychedelia of the other tracks but it’s not a concept as yet satisfactorily executed. The builds and development are simply too slow to be compelling. “Old Fear” builds but fails to capitalize on its momentum with any sort of finale. “Dark Call” plods, and though it features a couple of drum flurries which promise a change of tempo and variation, the band then returns to the same rhythm as before. The same riff is repeated for 3 minutes on the back half of “Ominous Black” and while it’s a good one, it isn’t good enough for 3 minutes of repetition. Finally, the ‘outro’ bit of “New Decay & Outro” is simply 5 minutes of spacey, cosmic synths. I anticipated the beginning of this to be a brief interlude before a heavy finale, but instead the record ends on a whimper. The likes of Pink Floyd wrote longer, synth-laden passages but those felt purposeful whereas this simply drags out the conclusion.

Edge was a difficult album to score. Dark Psychosis have produced something with clear weaknesses but also clear strengths, and I think there is potential in their sound. The album being a mixed bag tracks through to the production too; it has a lovely, roomy master and organic drum and bass tones, but an occasionally weird mix which suppresses the jamming guitars and keyboards, both of which should theoretically take a strong role in the band’s soundscape. This confusion speaks to teething problems in bridging the two branches of their sound (and Edge is quite a different record from their prior ones) but I’m confident that there is quality here. One to watch.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 12 | Format Reviewed: 224 kbps mp3
Label: Moribund Records
Website: facebook.com/darkpsychosis
Releases Worldwide: November 20th, 2020

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