Deathcore has seemingly fallen into a rut. Gone are the days of bands like Ion Dissonance and The Acacia Strain dominating almost all discourse on popular metal blogs. The novelty of the genre has faded, and seminal bands have broken up and moved on. In their place, a glut of sub-par copycats have emerged to fill the void. However, amidst the sea of cookie-cutter bands still populating the genre, Black Tongue, a young band from Hull, England, have stood out, and managed to breathe some life back into deathcore.
Black Tongue mix atmospheric sludge, deathcore, and doom into an amalgamation the band describes as “Doomcore,” and it’s an apt descriptor; their music is slow, menacing, and destructively dense. Surprisingly, this blend of stylistic influences works, and their debut full length, The Unconquerable Dark, gives a glimpse of where this young band’s brand of deathcore could take them.
The Unconquerable Dark’s heaviness is thanks to Black Tongue’s adherence to deathcore’s defining elements: chugging and constant breakdowns. Now, I’m not one dis this practice; I grew up at the height of metalcore’s popularity, and spin many a slam death metal record, so I am comfortable — welcoming, even, of a properly crafted breakdown, and for the most part Black tongue accomplish this. Their extremely low-tuning and angular guitar tone make the breakdowns powerful, with a heaviness that, while at times can seem superficial, never lacks in brutality. Many of the heavier moments on The Unconquerable Dark sound downright sinister. However, despite the competent execution thereof, that tonal density is a double edged sword.
Black Tongue have received accolades for injecting deathcore with a much needed pump of creativity and freshness. However, despite pulling influences from outside of deathcore, they never stray from the basic tenets of the genre’s sound. Black Tongue’s songwriting falls prey to the pitfall of repetition that plagues most deathcore, as they prioritize breakdowns over the much more interesting aspects of their sound. Each song is held together by a sinew of atmospheric melodies and mid-tempo grooves that guide the listener from breakdown to breakdown. This is ubiquitous across every track on The Unconquerable Dark, but thanks to a smattering of experimental moments throughout the album, each song achieves a modicum of identity amid the mire of distortion.
Take for example “In The Wake ov the Wolf.” Throughout the song, an almost Gothenburg-inspired riff turns up intermittently to provide some welcome dynamics. Almost every song has a moment like this, such as the guest appearance by Suicide Silence’s Eddie Hermida on “Vermintide” or even the atmospheric intros of “Young Gloom” and “The Masquerade” that bring to mind Monotheist-era Celtic Frost. The album closer, “I’m so Tired of Sighing. Please Lord Let it Be Night,” which easily ranks as one of The Unconquerable Dark’s highlights, has the most ominous passage on the album, replete with blackened riffs and whispered Latin chants.
It’s clear there are some interesting ideas here — some of them quite exciting, in fact. The moment to moment listening experience is an enjoyable one. But taken as a whole, the music here, despite all the tonal weight and aggression, fails to leave an impact beyond what is felt in the moment. While the creative moments are executed well, they rarely persist for longer than a few measures before they’re pulverised by yet another beastly breakdown. The breakdowns are easy to see coming, and with the slow tempo of the grooves and the infrequency of melodic and atmospheric passages, songs very quickly begin to feel repetitious and predictable. To be fair, it appears as if that is less a failure of the band than a reality of the genre, and therefore the ultimate enjoyment will likely differ from listener to listener. If you’re a diehard follower of deathcore, perhaps feeling a bit sick of the copycat bands littering the genre and are looking for something new, Black Tongue is your medicine. On the other hand, if the basic building blocks of deathcore just don’t do it for you and you’ve written off the genre entirely, don’t be surprised if Black Tongue fail to become the exception to your rule. Still, The Unconquerable Dark displays why Black Tongue have earned such respect in the genre so early in their career.