The hunt for impressive post-metal continues. With Pelagic once again delivering the goods, it seems I found an album to rival the unmatched energy of Hippotraktor’s Meridian. As a growing enjoyer of post-metal I am constantly looking to expand my knowledge of the genre through whatever I can get my hands on – and in the new album by Playgrounded I have struck gold. With their third album in tow, The Death of Death mixes the band’s prog influences into a warm blanket of post-metal and electronica that connects seamlessly and just makes sense on a first listen.
While the comparison to Hippotraktor is apt, Playgrounded stand out on their own. Although they are label mates, Hippotraktor and Playgrounded play two different kinds of post-metal: Meridian is more energetic and sludgier, with vocals that blend into the cacophony of their sound. The Death of Death is a slow burner, building up its tension to high peaks while vocalist Stavros Markonis’s enchanting, soothing vocals anchor the listener, keeping them rooted as the music echoes in and out of existence. As the album begins to grow on you, it also begins to sink deeper into your memory, the catchy melody slowly seeping in; you can’t help but move along to it. I have spent a lot of time with this album since I got it in my inbox, and the more I listened to it, the more seamless it became.
On first impression The Death of Death is an intimate affair, warm and connective. Its brightness shines through the heavy use of electronica and synths, and it’s easy to become invested into the music. From the onset the music puts you at ease, and you rapidly begin to sway with it. To that end, The Death of Death can be a little alarming, as anyone can pass through the barrier and just enjoy the music at face value. However, because of this accessibility, you are also waiting for something to occur, something to take you out of its comforting daze and bring you straight into a stark reality. When it does – second track “Rituals” is a prime example with its dark yet alluring tones and moody atmosphere – you realize you are prey to whatever musical tricks Playgrounded pull throughout the album. The listener can’t help but be seduced by the hazy atmosphere and the way the instruments sink a hole into the ground, as the band builds tension that could go off at any moment, and yet it doesn’t unless it sinks back into a baseline again. The Death of Death pulsates within its echo chamber, enveloping everything without care for your comfort. I found myself become and more invested into the album – so much so that I was humming it throughout the days leading up to me writing this review. It may be too early to call it, but I would not be surprised if this album ranked exceptionally high on my AOTY list.
All in all, The Death of Death is a beautifully rich, atmospheric affair whose music can simultaneously lull you into a false sense of security and make you feel like you are the only person in the world. Every time I wanted to move away from this album, I kept coming right back to it, a siren’s call to my ears. If Playgrounded was not in your radar before this, then it should be on right now; you are missing out on fantastic post-metal.