There are a lot of geographic regions that have become synonymous with black metal and the black metal aesthetics. Scandinavia, obviously, the Pacific Northwest, Iceland, each have their own distinctive take on the genre. There is one place, though, where the scene burns brightly but doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, and that is the American northeast. They might not be household names, but the bands that call New England home have developed a style that seamlessly blends the raw fury of their northern brethren with the swirling, textural components of their western counterparts into something that is all their own. Unendlich carry on this tradition with their newest release Paradox of a Broken World, which sees the project hone its already keen musical edges.
Drawing influence from the extreme metal godfathers of yore, Maryland’s own Unendlich is the musical outlet for multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Michael Connors, who embraces the DIY, one-man ethos of the greats while simultaneously pushing their raw, lo-fi aesthetic into the 21st century. Paradox of a Broken World marks Connors’ fourth full-length under the Unendlich banner since the project saw life in 2010, coming two years on the heels of their previous release Thanatophobia. The lyrical content of the band’s four opuses all follow the general black metal pattern of disgust for power, disgust for religion, and disgust for existence, but on Paradox, Connors looks inward, observing the hypocrisy and absurdity of human nature, contrasting the impending doom of the world with the inherently need to deny the personal and societal realities that led to this outcome. High minded stuff, and the music certainly follows. In what I would consider classic form for the Northeastern sound, Unendlich mixes together the furious riffing of classic extreme metal with the ethereal atmosphere and melodicism of more contemporary Pacific Northwest bands, all wrapped up in a smartly produced and crisp sounding package. Paradox might pay homage to the oldheads, thankfully the sound quality surpasses “headset mic thrown in front of a practice amp.”
The biggest success of Paradox of a Broken World is its ability to balance melody with aggression. This is a highly melodic album, both in the traditional, mournful sense and in a way that is very angular and jarring, almost progressive in spots, but all of that is balanced out by some really killer riffs that border on thrash and even metalcore in a couple of places. The hooks are strong, so be prepared to have some tracks like “Into Abandonment” and “Inner Kill” stuck in your head for a while. Opener “Wisdom of Suffering” kicks things off into high gear right away with some traditional black metal frenzy, setting the tone with thunderous blast beats and a signature retched howl. “Mask of the Adversary” comes at the midpoint of the album and seems to be the centerpiece of the whole affair, drawing on some more delicate melodies and laying out a more lush atmosphere that breaks some of the tension that has been building in the tracks before it. Paradox drips with tension, but there is a lot of space for everything to breathe and for all the little flourishes to sink in and stand out.
Black metal is hardly a genre that I would call “stagnant,” and I would also argue that this is a very good thing, crybaby purists be damned. I like that the sounds of black metal are no longer relegated to “cold, evil and kinda shitty.” This is a genre that needs a push every now and then, and I think what Unendlich and their Northeastern cohorts are doing is the perfect way to breed a stronger and more diverse scene. If you’re not up on the New England black metal scene, what better time is there than now to fix that?