Metal’s fascination and preoccupation with religion is as old as the genre itself. Whether it’s co-opting iconography and art to twist and subvert convention, or using the tenants of scripture to rail or embrace faith, there’s a forever entwined relationship between the two. De Profundis are no strangers to exploring the negative impact religion has on life in both a modern and historical context, but on fifth full length The Blinding Light of Faith they wrap that exploration in some of the most progressive and deeply satisfying death metal this side of Schuldiner, and in the process pull out the best album of their career and one of the best death metal releases in 2018.
The roots of that progression can be heard in the pull of doom and death that line their 2007 debut Beyond Redemption. The emphasis on tight playing, and working the dynamic between slow and fast on songs that honestly were a little too long continued with A Bleak Reflection in 2010, although to the band’s credit they’re able to keep momentum with tracks like “Nocturnal Splendor” and “Cold Is the Grave.”
The Emptiness Within introduced a little more melody into the mix, and – a slight thinness to the production (mainly the drums) aside – you can really begin to see the band opening up their definition of progression to embrace changes in rhythm and tone, shifting moods over the course of songs that feel just as epic even as the average song length is reduced. That’s a key piece to how much better De Profundis have gotten in the last few years: their ability to keep things epic and brutal while streamlining their songwriting and incorporating seemingly disparate and exotic elements really start to take shape on The Emptiness Within, and with 2015’s Kingdom of the Blind you can feel the new foundation hardening. Everything is harder, faster, and furiously driving without sacrificing the hard earned chops from previous records. Both “Kult of the Orthodox” and “Illumination” right off the bat hit you with everything the band has executed in the past.
Even so, it feels like a warm-up for what is dished out on The Blinding Light of Faith. Right from the outset, opener “Obsidian Spires” roils and froths with an aggression that is constantly shifting to the point where it’s just this side of full-on tech death, except every note is massive and resounding. There are so many different riffs and sections there’s a real danger of losing the thread, but each distinctly serves to show how adept the band has become with handling any kind of material. Each section is easily good enough to be the jumping off point for its sown song: the fact that it’s all in one works, and that The Blinding Light of Faith has enough left over to occupy a full album makes for a devastating combination.
This doesn’t work if the whole band isn’t putting out 100% and thankfully the band manages to equal more than the sum of their parts. The variety vocalist Craig Land brings to each scream, bellow, and rasp is a constant source of bloody pleasure. Even more impressive is the monumental work of rhythm section Tom Atherton (drums) and Arran McSporran (fretless bass): this feels like the first time the production is really supporting them. Gone is the thinness, replaced with a robust and full sound that really accentuates how versatile this team is, particularly on tracks like “Opiate for the Masses” that weaves in exotic themes and a killer bass solo even as it focuses on a lurching death twitch. On the dual guitar front Shoi Sen and Paul Nazarkardeh traffic in just about everything you can want from metal. Twin leads and harmonies sit next to chugging riffs and technical wizardry on “Bastard Sons of Abraham” and the slower paced and ominous “Godforsaken.” Nothing is lost or crushed in the mix: the space each instrument is afforded makes The Blinding Light of Faith also one of the best sounding albums of 2018.
I love a death metal album that constantly surprises you and reveals more with each listen. De Profundis pull a huge album out of the hat that rewards you not only the more you listen to it, but the louder you listen to it. Even now as I write this I’m falling back into the crushing breakdown in “Beyond Judgement” and can’t help turning it up even as my ears begin to bleed a bit. Seriously, turn up The Blinding Light of Faith and revel in the sonic depravity that awaits. You won’t be sorry.