Blackened Hardcore is beginning to have its day in the sun. This is, relatively speaking, of course, as the amalgamative subgenre still firmly lives and breathes in the underground, but the likes of Svalbard and KEN Mode have been making serious waves with their critically acclaimed latest releases.
Exhaling from the ashes of acrimony, Totaled formed in 2017 and bring us their debut album, Lament (Profound Lore) and their take on Blackened Hardcore.
A cello and acoustic guitar fade into existence, bringing an ominous sense of foreboding with them. With violins rising to a fever pitch, ‘As Below’ explosively begins the album. It is a barreling, blackened beast that lurches around the speakers, increasing in intensity as its run time elapses. Instrumentally the guitars are tremolo picked with ferocity as Black Metal ought to be, before a melodious pentatonic solo cuts through the wall of noise. The song is skin-flaying in its hypersonic blast, and an oxymoronic painful joy to listen to.
The production is barren and arid. The guitars feel dirty and played with vim, while the rhythm section crashes around in the background. However, there is little by way of dynamism in the engineering of the album – everything stays at the same level throughout, regardless of being a main riff or a solo and the vocals are, sadly, buried beneath the flat wall of sound. Whether this was a decision to make the album sound more “tr00 kvlt” or simply a technological limitation is unclear, but regardless it doesn’t work and just leaves the listener wanting more.
Though the production may not be dynamic, the musicianship certainly is. Elements of Black Metal and Hardcore collide together with seamless precision, and the likes of ‘Eclipsed’ and ‘Transience’ move from blast to d-beat with startling flair. The percussive performance on these two songs is particularly dexterous, fills flying fluidly around the kit and into the listeners’ expectant ears.
The most surprising moment of the album comes in ‘Hypnosis’ as a solo is peeled off that could have come straight from Progressive Thrash masterpiece, …And Justice For All (Elektra). This skillful solo stands out as an isolated moment in the album, and though phenomenally executed, perhaps jars with the album’s sound a touch too much.
Lament is a decent debut album. Impressive musical performances that are a delight to listen to and reasonably adept songwriting make it borderline great. However a poor and uninteresting production job that focuses on the blackened aspect of their Hardcore leaves the album feeling incomplete: by no means a bad album, but there’s a nagging feeling, like there is, as yet, unfulfilled potential here.
6 / 10