Heaving Earth – Darkness of God Review

While I usually avoid harming animals, I had to chase a certain Abbathian cat up a tree to get my hands on this promo. My feline colleague gushed about Czechia’s Heaving Earth in 2015, calling Denouncing the Holy Throne a shamelessly uncreative but satisfying slab of vintage death metal. The band is back with its third record Darkness of God, but the seven intervening years have seen its sound evolve. Much like the latest Golgothan Remains, Heaving Earth’s newest offering adorns old-school death metal with speckles of dissonance and malice, and influences from across the death metal universe. One thing hasn’t changed: Heaving Earth knows how to write rock-solid music.

While its predecessor sounded like mid-90s Morbid Angel, Darkness of God is closer to Mithras. The band’s OSDM foundation is intact; guitarists Tomáš Halama and Martin Meyer unleash an onslaught of riffs that echo Immolation’s Rob Vigna, sounding at once colossal and threatening. But there’s a lot more going on this time. Heaving Earth shares Mithras’ penchant for intricate screeching guitar melodies that teeter-totter on the brink of insanity (“The Lord’s Lamentations,” “Woeful Redemption”). With its high-speed riffing, its grating harmonized leads, and Giulio Galati’s pummeling drum performance, Darkness of God sounds more frenetic than its 90s inspirations. The improved production helps these varied elements of Darkness of God stand out, with each melody making its towering presence felt throughout the album.

Darkness of God feels like a guided tour through the bowels of death metal, with a dizzying array of styles on display. On top of the aforementioned influences, Heaving Earth incorporates a palatable degree of dissonance, creating a haunting atmosphere that resembles GorgutsColored Sands (“Crossing the Great Divide,” “Earthly Kingdom of God in Ruins”). Even more surprising are the tech death flourishes, like beautiful Gorodite guitar solos (“The Lord’s Lamentations”), First Fragment-laced arpeggiated leads (“Forever Deceiving Dismal Gods”), and Dawn of Dementia-esque tapping bass solos (“Cardinal Sin”). On the other end of the complexity spectrum, Heaving Earth sometimes slows down to a crawl, with crushing death-doom riffs that would make Asphyx proud (“Crossing the Great Divide”). Darkness of God is not merely a mishmash of these disparate styles. Rather, highlights like “Cardinal Sin” and “Earthly Kingdom” are stellar examples of how to move fluidly among genres and construct seamless transitions using strong core melodies. A downside is Heaving Earth’s occasional tendency to dart between ideas too frantically without giving each one time to develop and shine (“Flesh-Ridden Providence”). Regardless, the album’s shapeshifting helps it both keep my interest and feel like a true creative effort, rather than mere Morbid Angel worship.

Despite some hiccups, the folks in Heaving Earth know how to have fun. The album’s Close to a World Below-inspired gigatonne riffs make their presence felt throughout and send heads a-bangin’ (“Crossing the Great Divide,” “Apologetics”). Even more impressive is when Heaving Earth couples these hulking riffs with climactic guitar solos to produce a wall of sound (“Violent Gospels,” “Earthly Kingdom”). On the best parts of the record, these elements come together with frenzied tom fills and tremolo leads, achieving a perfect balance of unsettling and irresistible (“Cardinal Sin,” “The Lord’s Lamentations”). Some sections of Darkness of God neglect this all-important fun factor, and settle into Mithrasian squealing that doesn’t hold up as well on its own (“Flesh-Ridden Providence,” “Woeful Redemption”). And even the album’s highlights tend to stretch longer than they have any right to (like the underwhelming middle of seven-minute “The Lord’s Lamentations”), which does them no favors. Along with the dip in quality toward the end, this bloat makes the otherwise-great Darkness of God feel like a drag to listen to in one 49-minute sitting.

Darkness of God is the best Immolation album I’ve heard all year. Heaving Earth has done an admirable job of infusing old-school stylings with a diverse set of modern death metal influences, creating a final product that transcends those influences. The band’s evolution from Denouncing the Holy Throne is measured but noticeable enough to help Darkness of God stand out in the old-school death metal scene. Heaving Earth sometimes loses sight of what matters, meandering through overlong sections without the requisite riffs to stay interesting. Still, Darkness of God is a worthwhile listen for fans of death metal of any species. If you hate God but love riffs, look no further.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Lavadome Productions
Website:  facebook.com/heavingearth
Releases Worldwide: May 27th, 2022

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