Essence

Last Night Of Solace

Written by: AP on 01/08/2013 00:02:01

It was always going to be a challenge of enormous proportions to supercede the brilliance of Essence's debut album "Lost in Violence" (2011), which cemented the quartet as not only the best thrash metal band Denmark has to offer, but also one of the most exciting entrants to the global thrash metal scene in recent years. Its success stems not from inflated ambition, but from retrospection and stern conformity to the essentials (no pun intended) of the genre. Essence burst out of nothing to play old school thrash metal better than some of its most established acts have been able to of late (Anthrax and Megadeth, for instance), so naturally it was no surprise when they were able to announce their signing with NoiseArt Records last year. The product of that collaboration is this sophomore album, entitled "Last Night of Solace", on which Essence wisely opt not to replicate the style of its predecessor brick by brick, but rather infuse elements from a wide variety of extreme metal sub-genres to put together a significantly more experimental piece of music.

The implications of wishing to push their music beyond the boundaries of mere thrash are not altogether positive, however. To facilitate the more grandiose sound that Essence strive to implement on "Last Night of Solace", a sizable portion of what made the foursome such an enthralling prospect - the youthful exuberance, burning intensity and almost a feeling of worship toward the old legends of the genre - has been shaved off to accommodate a greater emphasis on melody and, atmospherically, enormity. It's not all experimental though, as early on the album bears a very close resemblance to "Lost in Violence"; especially on the blistering "Final Eclipse" which makes no attempt to deviate from the balls-to-the-walls approach of that record, except to some extent with an expertly incorporated, soulful instrumental segment midway through; and on "Children of Rwanda", which makes a clever instrumental allusion to the galloping chug in Slayer's classic "Raining Blood" (from "Reign in Blood", 1986) around the halfway mark. The marching "Arachnida" is similarly inclined, though it does begin to unravel the band's thirst for bigger, better things with a strangely Gothenburg style intro lead and solo.

With "For the Fallen" the transition becomes more obvious, as the song shares similarities with Arch Enemy's "No Gods, No Masters" (off "Khaos Legions", 2011) and In Flames circa "Colony" (1999), sounding less like thrash and undeniably more like melodic death metal with slightly atypical raspy vocals, courtesy of frontman Lasse Skov. The latter half of the album makes an even stronger statement of intent with the Absu/Aura Noir-esque fusion of straight thrash, blastbeats and chord progressions that sound decisively and classically black in their tone in "Gemstones". Skov's harrowing shriek over a passage sounding instrumentally more like Immortal beginning at the 04:05 minute mark certainly suggests the occurrence of heavy musing over classic Norwegian black metal during the writing of this album. "Dark Matter" and the title track immediately in its wake offer a minutely divergent take on this newfound style, injecting elements of ambient black metal to the frey, and reminding me more than just a little of Vektor's revered "Outer Isolation" LP (2011) and setting in stone that Essence would like to try their hand at writing music of a more progressive nature than previously.

Herein lies the key issue, for whilst it cannot be denied that Essence still boast sublime songwriting ability, "Last Night of Solace" does not deliver the virgin snatch tightness and consistency that "Lost in Violence" did - if only by a small margin. It seems that Essence may have tried to grasp at too many straws here in attempting to avoid simply reproducing their debut album. Though impressive in scale and scope, "Last Night of Solace" simply isn't as instantly addictive or memorable as its predecessor. But even so, it is an album which represents the absolute highest caste of Danish metal output right now, and one would be foolish not to find a slot for it in one's collection of metal records.

8

Download: Final Eclipse, Arachnida, Children of Rwanda, Gemstones, Last Night of Solace
For the fans of: Aura Noir, Destruction, Vektor
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Release date 29.03.2013
NoiseArt Records

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