Silver Knife – Unyielding/Unseeing Review

Melancholy is pensivity, a state of dreamy thoughtfulness leading to dread. Consumed by an immeasurable longing, a clawing hole at the core, an individual’s melancholic thoughts lurk the caverns of the psyche. Like a scavenger, melancholy tries to scrape and expel the last remnants of sanity. Then, once melancholy has reached deeper pits, what’s next? The dreamy, thoughtful aloofness has turned into something severe, something abrasive that digs at the heart of things to cause chaos. Silver Knife’s sound is driven by an “aggressive melancholy.” The scathing edge to their knife is laced with poison, ready to slice through the next layer, ready to inflict greater pain. A reinvigorating dose of melancholic black metal has been missing from 2020. This year needs a realistic soundtrack. The depressive duo of Silver Knife met before the world collapsed in 2008. Dutch multi-instrumentalist N. (most known for being one of the three masterminds behind weird black trio Laster) and Belgian S. (most known for wielding the axe for Hypothermia, Trancelike Void and Monads) have painted a collaborative picture of melancholic dread with Unyielding/Unseeing, their first release. 

Guided by Déhà’s (Slow, Cult of Erinyes, Clouds) recording work and Jake Buczarski of Mare Cognitum‘s mastering, Unyielding/Unseeing is a work of collaborative claustrophobic starkness that lets little through its walls – there are few spaces in the record. Instead, a deluge cascades for the most part. At the get go, and throughout, the record is a wash of vast, smothering noise covering the black metal spectrum. Cloaked, a listener is left gasping for breath, unable to navigate accurately through a sulfurous cloud that is punctured by hearty bass lines that expertly anchor the record. Its constancy may be both its downfall and its saving grace. There is little in the way of tenderness or breakdown. Rarely are there lengthy stoppages, cute ambient sections and twiddly acoustic laments. One short three minute interlude in the form of fourth track “Unseeing” and the occasional less-than-a-minute break in three tracks is all. For the remaining thirty five minutes plus, the record is a shimmering, glistening knife attack of depressive tremolo. 

The riff-based constancy of the record is its strength. Too many atmospheric centered records try to find nuance in breaks, segues and segments of non-metal world building. Often these can act as a crooked counterbalance to the metal heart, sullying the sharp aggression that it’s supposed to be upholding. The atmospheric legacies of Weakling‘s Dead as Dreams and Spectral Lore‘s III are built on an unwavering ability to create atmosphere through constantly mesmeric riff weaving. There are occasionally breaks in the sound, particularly in III, but ultimately the guitar reigns supreme. Silver Knife fall into the same category though less epic in scale. Largely uniform in execution, riffs are bounteously depressive. Opener “Unyielding” has a folky melodic simplicity that shines through the clouds of shimmering reverb and painfully stark vocals. “The Luminous Loom” possesses a lullaby-esque lilt that shines brighter. The guitar lines of “Conjuring Traces” are high in the sky glistening like stars, melodic shards reaching higher and higher before dropping solemnly. In “Sundown” riffs are a slippery scythe through mid-range mulch, oscillating between the squirming high pitch and brutish mid-range. It’s like this for the most part, light jostling for space amongst a deep darkness. 

It’s not all an impenetrable cloud. “Silver Red” has a groovy swagger carried through the bass that provides an off-key looseness to the thickness of the album. As aforementioned, the interlude “Unseeing” is welcomed and the shorter jaunts of calmness offer a brief release. But, its lack of dynamism and differentiation can impact a listen towards the very end. The guitars struggle to penetrate enough for my liking.  Similarly, the low end of the drums lack a heftier thump. This may be a purposely dense and somewhat lo-fi release, but subtle changes could work in the record’s favor. Vocals are a shrieking eardrum killer that, for the most part, act as a textural carpet. Its aim: formulate misery. In that respect the vocals work, but the lack of nuance and their overly high pitched delivery can grow tiresome, especially set so loud in the mix. Lower vocals in the vein  of John Gossard of Weakling may serve better, humanizing the record. 

Unyielding/Unseeing is not the most remarkable blackened release I’ve ever heard but it certainly strikes the right chord. There’s nothing to really pull the record down except a tendency to merge into one and some minor production quibbles. It’s not an issue when in the right mood but not something that instantly stands out in a crowd. But Silver Knife aren’t here to be boisterous showmen. They’re the subtle knife to the throat releasing aggressive melancholy. Unyielding/Unseeing is the sort of record to sneak up on you. It needs more time to cement itself over time. Perhaps then more riches will spill from the wound. 


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Amor Fati and Entropic Recordings
Website: silverknife.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/silverknifeband
Releases Worldwide: August 19th, 2020

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