Before exploring the inner workings of Black Sun Unbound, the latest effort from Australian black metal quartet Denouncement Pyre, it’s worth prefacing this review with the acknowledgement that less than two months ago I was not even aware of this band’s existence. It was a brief, yet undoubtedly momentous, performance at Maryland Deathfest under the midday sun that projected them into my periphery. This particular festival has quite the track record of serving as an introduction to previously undiscovered black masters for myself and many of my compatriots (Mgła, Taake, etc). With this third full length effort from Denouncement Pyre, that trend continues. As impressive as their performance was two months ago, this release builds off that successfully. Black Sun Unbound will prove to be one of the premier albums of 2016 across genres.
I labeled Denouncement Pyre as a black metal band above, but in all reality that general of a categorization isn’t exactly justified. While many of those stylistic qualities form the personality of the record — echoing vocals, tremolo picking, dynamic percussive patterns — Black Sun Unbound is far more complicated than that. But that in turn is what makes this record so important; they complicate a well-known genre in a cohesive and natural way.
The first stylistic qualities of this record we recognize come forward fairly early on as the introductory “Abnegate” yields to “Deathless Dreaming”. A galloping blackthrash feel blends brilliantly with aggressively technical riffs and leads from the guitars. Those tendencies are supplemented with complex tempo changes and endlessly exploratory instrumental work across all phases. No song sticks to a consistent direction start to finish, they are instead defined by how they break apart in varying sections. Working through these early tracks, with “Wounds of Golgotha” serving as another example, sets a precedent for the rest of the album — a collection of tracks that refuse to stick to a given formula. They instead choose to let creativity take over with the intention of offering a diverse range of levels of aggression. It’s a quality of this album that allows it to keep its hold on an audience and allow the tracks to fly by as their dynamic structures keep the interest level high without fail.
The complexities of this album, however, don’t just lie in the architecture of each track. Broader influences from a number of genres also come into focus at various points. “World Encircler” might be considered more traditional black metal through ferocious tremolo picking and blasts while “Revere the Pyre” finds itself far more in the blackthrash categorization as tastefully clean leads and consistent phrasing from the rhythms and vocals in the verses offer some appreciated organization. Not to mention that within all of these tracks there is a consistent underlying somber melodic feel to it; a defined dose of atmosphere within the instrumental precision. This is an element that shines through quite prominently on the title track, but overall creates a welcomed balance of both the melodic and raw sides of black metal. Further still, the album closes with “Sophrosune”, which depicts a more brooding dark energy outlined with deliberate instrumental interludes and a more restrained feel before resolving itself in the elevated closing minute. In short, the overriding themes of the album are broad, yet also implemented brilliantly.
For everything that Black Sun Unbound encompasses — the technical, the melodic, the aggressive — it comes across as a rather ambitious record. Yet, as a result of its dynamic structures and overall stylistic balance, Denouncement Pyre has absolutely hit their mark. The authenticity of the record is undeniable, as the underlying elements keep the overall energy and dark aggression intact despite the experimentation. Black Sun Unbound is a perfected balance of the traditional and the creative, and it comes together to form quite possibly the best collection of tracks so far this year.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”