Drift into Black – Patterns of Light Review

We here at AMG know all about the grind of productivity. “The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves” is, after all, proudly emblazoned on the office wall. But sometimes, the quest for endless productivity results in work that is rushed, uninspired, and recycled. This same trap can befall musicians. While constant new material is great, and creative bursts are welcome for fans, sometimes you wish bands would hone their existing music more rather than vomiting out new material like a food-poisoned student. Which brings us to Patterns of Light, the fourth album from ex-Grey Skies Fallen keyboardist, Craig Rossi. His solo project, Drift into Black, has deviated significantly from the melo-death of Grey Skies Fallen, focusing on mournful doom and weighty themes of grief and loss. The man is more productive than many AMG writers,1 pumping out an album every year. Gardenstale reviewed his first, Dead Suns Under the Forever Moon, in 2018, and found it adequate, if plodding. Has the band grown since then? Or is a “therapeutic timeout” in order?

Drift into Black sticks to fairly standard death doom of the My Dying Bride variety. Patterns of Light continues this style but is notably darker than predecessors. Rossi has doubled down on the death growls, and there are moments that are almost funereal in their tempo. There are also synths and female vocals as well, to spruce things up. Nevertheless, as the disturbing cover should convey, Patterns of Light is a serious, slow and mostly joyless work that aims to crush rather than energize. While the mournful atmosphere it creates is impressive, the album only intermittently entertains, because Drift into Black still struggles with achieving the catharsis a heavy collection like this needs.

The real issue with Patterns of Light is its pacing. While the individual songs vary from ok to pretty good, the album’s languid speed means that, to quote famous brvtal metal band, The Rembrandts, you always feel like Drift into Black is stuck in second gear. This second gear isn’t bad, but you yearn for Rossi to just floor the accelerator from time to time, and inject some energy and oomph into the proceedings. “The Burial Gown,” “Patterns of Light” and “Mother in Peril” all progress smoothly enough, with some great moments and catchy riffs, but lack a truly killer blow, or soaring peak, to lodge in the memory bank. “Her Voice Beyond,” to its credit, does try something different by upping the tempo, but it comes off as mostly unconvincing, until Drift into Black settles back into its preferred groove. This languid song writing, without the dynamism needed to maintain interest, becomes sadly repetitive (no tracks were provided for pre-release, so you’ll have to take my word for it).

Patterns of Light also continues the trend of poor production for Drift into Black’s albums. The volume between tracks jumps around like a kid on a sugar high. The guitars sometimes sound thin and tinny, the drumming lurches through the mix, the voice-modulated growls sound more distracting than scary, and the cleans are transparent and forced. This is metal: we’re used to dodgy production, but even by bar-at-your-ankles standards, Patterns of Light is bland, and it hurts the material. This is a pity, because Rossi knows his way around a riff, and there are plenty of promising moments (“Mother in Peril 9,” “Patterns of Light Pt. 2”) that hint of what the project is capable of. It’s just lost in the meandering pacing and lame master.

Drift into Black needs to have a rethink. Regular new material is fine, but the stuff we get is unpolished and meandering. There are great ideas here, but Rossi should take the time and effort to work out how best to showcase them: more time on pacing; more time on production; more time on dynamics and flow. Without these, Drift into Black will remain in second gear. And let’s be honest, there’s just nothing particularly exciting about that.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: drifintoblack2.bandcamp.com/  |  facebook.com/driftintoblack/
Releases Worldwide: May 28th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. This is a pretty low bar. – Steel
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