Kosmodemonic – Liminal Light Review

Sometimes around this place, you pick up a promo and just have a good feeling about. You look at the cover and read the promo blurb and, without even hearing a note, you start to mentally prepare yourself for the tongue lashing Steel Druhm will dish out, as you submit an absurdly high score. In the case of Brooklyn’s Kosmodemonic I was making just these preparations. I wasn’t familiar with the quartet’s 2016 debut, The Inebriating Darkness, but it garnered strong reviews and the sophomore effort comes wrapped in some pretty gorgeous artwork, courtesy of Aleksandra Waliszweska,. The accompanying notes promise a lot too. There’s talk of black metal combining with the doom grandeur of Triptykon and YOB, plus classic metal and psychedelia, with flashes of thrash and epic prog to boot. Can any band successfully combine these disparate sounds? Can Liminal Light live up to the hype lavished upon it?

My first thought, as album opener “Drown in Drone” kicks into gear, is that this sounds like Magma-era Gojira. My second thought is that that’s not at all what I was expecting and my third is, “Christ, I hope the vocalist isn’t going to be doing that for the whole record.” The yawing guitars and metronomic drumming, which combine to conjure Gojira, don’t last, however, and across Liminal Light as a whole, the hugely varied influences promised in the promo blurb seesaw in and out of being. We lurch through thrash-inspired guitar leads, prog-esque solos, doom-laden drums and, occasionally, something dimly resembling atmospheric black metal, as well as, somewhat unexpectedly, occasional hints of grunge (both to be found in “Moirai”).

As “Hidden Light” shifts from initially promising Triptykon-esque doom into some seriously third-rate thrash before slipping into a vague atmoblack movement, however, things begin to come off the rails a bit for Kosmodemonic. The chameleon-like shifts of style come thick and fast, without seeming purpose or structure and it becomes increasingly hard to follow the arc of the record, if there is one. Album highlight, “Lover of Leaving,” for example, sets out a strong stall of Atma-era YOB but the jarring shift into “Broken Crown”‘s brawny The Jesus Lizard vibe diverts the album on another tangent. Despite being billed as a black metal band, the only out and out black metal track on here, “With Majesty,” feels curiously out of place and very safe in its execution. The most challenging thing about Liminal Light, however – to the point where I really struggled to get through it in single sittings – are David Bozzler’s vocals. He a favors a hoarse growling delivery, with a weirdly drawn out diction, that sounds incredibly whiny – who knew it was possible to sound whiny while growling? – which feels entirely disconnected from what the music is doing. That is all the more surprising since Bozzler is also one of the two guitarists.

I have not enjoyed my time with Liminal Light. In fact, I’ve intensely disliked it.1 A large part of that is down to Bozzler’s vocals, which I simply cannot get on board with and I find hugely distracting, not least because they are so loud and prominent in the mix, dominating everything else. I don’t think this is just a taste thing (although that will be part of it) – the vocals just don’t gel with any of the various styles that Kosmodemonic incorporate into their sound. But the vocals aren’t the only issue. First, Liminal Light feels weirdly lightweight, with even the heavier tracks – “Hidden Light” and “With Majesty” – feeling light and lacking in edge or grit. The blame for that has to lie with the production, which leaves everything – except Bozzler’s vocals – on the same, flat level throughout. Secondly, the pacing of the album is all over the place, with the shifts in style – both within and between tracks – feeling random and aimless, rather than structured with purpose to guide the listener through some vision of the band’s.

Would Liminal Light be better as an instrumental? Absolutely. Would it be good? No. This is a tepid, safe piece of work, which is not nearly as clever as it thinks it is and is made significantly worse by the vocals, which are everything your non-metal friend thinks metal vocals are: some out of tune dude leering distorted-kinda-growls into a mic, just slightly out of time with the band. While I didn’t think the blackened noise rock of Kosmodemonic’s debut was much to get excited about, that album’s raucous edge is gone, replaced by a smoother, more complex take, which has utterly pulled Kosmodemonic’s fangs.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Transylvanian Recordings
Websites: kosmodemonic.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/kosmodemonic
Releases Worldwide: May 7th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. As it should be. – Steel
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