Shadow in the Darkness – Erstwhile Befell Review

Erstwhile Befell. What a great album title. I’m not honestly sure what it means, but all the same I love it. If you say it aloud a couple of times, you’ll get it. This album has a fairly long history—from what I gather, Shadow in the Darkness have been working on releasing this, their debut album, for a while now. The first single, “The Aboriginal Storyteller,” was released in October 2018, and that’s quite the delay from introduction to release. The band plays arresting progressive/technical death metal, and while this normally isn’t quite my cup of skull-pit-juice, these three Greeks have got some serious chops on them. Sampling the aforementioned single sucked me in quite effectively. I may not know what befell the erstwhile, but that’s neither here nor there—friends, we’ve got death metal to listen to.

I’ll address the obvious point first, and the answer is yes: Shadow in the Darkness know their way around some killer riffs. Tasos Derisiotis, the band’s sole listed guitarist, rarely lets up throughout Erstwhile Befell, filling songs like “The Aboriginal Storyteller” with enough inventive and varied brutality to keep things interesting over the long term. He never stays in one place either; Erstwhile Befell is a record that constantly shifts, evolves, and adapts to its surroundings. In this way, it reminds me of a (less brutal) Pyrrhon;1 never quite what you expect, but consistently bringing it in the riff department. Factor in Kostas Xynos’ varied and reasonably beastly vocal performance, and the Archspire-esque drumming from Panayotis Derisiotis, and you’ve got yourself the formula for some fine technical death metal.

Shadow in the Darkness have a way of sucking you into their abyss of killer riffs and solos that defy reason (and easily calculable time signatures), and it’s hard to argue with the album highlights. “21”2 comes to mind immediately, an immediate, wild, and thunderous ride through a furious storm of death metal goodness. Synths accent the song’s tensest moments without overpowering them while the band trio launches a relentless assault on the listener. “The Deontology of an Android” is another winner, punishing and angry, speedy and impressive. You expect strong performances from bands playing “technical” anything, but Erstwhile Befell is still impressive in what it delivers.

I’m not completely sold on the album, however, as I feel that there are a few missteps in the way the band handles the less brutal moments on the album. I mentioned before that “21” contains a few synths. These pop up from time to time across the album, sometimes as accents (“21,” “From Conversion to Fixation”), sometimes in a more distracting way (“Interdisciplinary Sectarianism”). They take up an awkward spot in the mix and don’t always work as well as they could. In a similar vein, I feel the album has a few too many breaks. “Aspalathus (Prelude)” and “A Grand Parable” are two short, introduction-style tracks that are acoustic and symphonic (respectively), and act as mid-paced breathers to slow the album down. The first half of opener “Benign” arrives in a similar style, as does the first minute of the closer, “From Conversion to Fixation,” which follows “A Grand Parable.” It all adds up to a lot of slowing down and perhaps a few too many interludes on an already short album—32 minutes in all. These moments stand at odds with the greater feel of the album whole, which can break the flow of complete listens a bit. Songs like “21″ prove that it can work well, but I feel it doesn’t always elevate Erstwhile Befell.

Still, I’m hardly one to complain about symphonic anythings, and when the rest of the music makes for such a solid foundation, it almost feels like nitpicking to dwell on it. Shadow in the Darkness are starting off on a solid foot with Erstwhile Befell; this is a good, enjoyable album showcasing some fine technical death metal. I look forward to hearing more.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Sliptrick Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: May 19th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Drawing on my admittedly meager repertoire of references to this style.
  2. So close to the perfect song title…
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