Distant – Aeons of Oblivion Review

Netherlands outfit Distant emerged on the scene with 2019’s Tyrannotophia debut, showcasing their self-proclaimed downtempo deathcore brand, with atmospheric stylings. While potential was evident, overall the album fell short of the mark, marred by monotonous writing and lack of interesting and dynamic arrangements. I missed their stopgap EP from 2020, but with two years having slipped by I plunge in with trepidation and hope to see if Distant have revamped their brand enough to sustain a deeper level of engagement. Whereas Tyrannotophia kept it short, sweet and to the point, unleashing chunky brodown slams and obnoxious grooves, Aeons of Oblivion explores similar terrain but takes a decidedly more ambitious route.

First glance of the tracklisting had me expecting a turn into grind territory with 19 tracks crammed in. While shreds of grindy influence are evident, Distant largely stay true to their groove-heavy combo of brutal death/deathcore. Experimental dabbling abounds, futuristic vibes and the band’s conceptual storylines bringing some thoughtfulness to otherwise straightforward bursts of brutality. Following a throwaway introductory piece, Distant set a path of mid-paced pummeling destruction on “Hellmouth.” Complete with plodding tempos and atmospheric stylings, the song excels when it mixes things up with an all to brief, blasty outburst of grindy goodness. Solid moments aside, it’s an uneven track, a trend that infects various counterparts. Certain songs, such as “Graveborn” fare better, featuring more cohesive, interesting arrangements. Short circuiting electronic flourishes, faster tempos, and effective balance of styles works pleasingly in the song’s favor. The stronger dynamic shifts lend weight to their chunky deathcore grooves.

Elsewhere, the mountainous rumble of “Oedipism” utilizes a sick dual vocal approach to solid effect, with a tasty mix of industrial, grind and slam influences thrown into the cocktail. The bruising riffs and cavernous grooves of “The Tyrant’s Covenant” also brings home the bacon later in the album. Nearly an hour’s worth of material is packed into a bloated run-time, though in fairness most songs are short to palatable lengths, barring six minute plus closing bonus track “Argent Debt.” For those with an aversion to anything deathcore related in nature, Distant‘s chuggalong style of testosterone fueled, boneheaded smack downs are unlikely to sway the unconverted. Big, fat as phat riffs, an array of guttural but rather generic growls, hard hitting rhythms, and signature down-tuned, extended breakdowns and groovy slogs dominate proceedings. Pig squeals crop up occasionally, while the higher pitched vocal styles work decently well in contrast. Like the debut, an over-reliance on slow to mid-paced chugs gets a tad predictable and one-dimensional. The blueprint bleeds overkill and monotony through chunks of the album.

Credit where credit is due, Distant play with energy, enthusiasm and solid instrumental chops. There are some noted improvements from their uneven debut, yet the album’s deeper flaws and songwriting chinks still require significant ironing out. It doesn’t help that Distant decided to compose an album of such length. Unfortunately they are unable to back it up with enough substance and quality to justify the duration, even removing the bonus track from the equation. Distant‘s interest in synths and incorporation of sci-fi flavored atmospherics and ambient soundscapes present a mixed bag of quality. Occasionally they provide the layered punch the band are no doubt searching for, but can come across like an afterthought, or are awkwardly implemented. Meanwhile the production is polished, fat and beefy, however, the heavily processed sounding vocals and loud mastering job distract from its lead-heavy weightiness.

Despite the writing being hamstrung by structural deficiencies, grind and industrial spattered inflections highlight Distant‘s greater potential to deviate slightly from their core sound, which in turn helps accentuate their heftier, slowed down moments of heavy duty destruction. There are some solid tunes and noteworthy moments, but the whole package does not quite come together. Bottom line is Distant‘s extreme metal hybrid sound will likely divide listeners who enjoy death metal and its often maligned core variant. Despite some noted intriguing elements, Distant have plenty of room for growth and refinement to go head to head with acts like Shadow of Intent, or the solid recent Mental Cruelty release. Further tinkering of their hybrid formula and improved self-editing practices will hopefully help Distant hit a new level next time round.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Unique Leader Records
Websites: distantofficial.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/distantofficial
Releases Worldwide: June 11th, 2021

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