Album review: Underdark – Our Bodies Burned Bright On Re-Entry
The rise of Underdark has been a gradual one. The five years separating the East Midlands band’s debut EP Mourning Cloak and this much-anticipated first full-length have seen them develop a sound that pushes at the boundaries, ensuring this record lands with a huge impact.
There’s a sense of aural adventure evident from the outset, when the melodic guitars and spoken word intro to Qeres give way without warning to blackened bludgeon and anguished cries from vocalist Abi Vasquez. Album highlight Coyotes is built on both post-rock grandeur and metallic bombast, while the title track finds no contradiction between progressive spirit and overwhelming ferocity.
The conclusion of Skeleton Queen even promises a little positivity with a melodic phrase reminiscent of Deafheaven at their mellowest… until a certain singer starts shrieking ‘Die, Abi! Die!’. Moments like this, with shimmering guitars pitted against harsh, unadorned vocal violence, pull less from blackgaze than the more chaotic end of ‘90s emo, one of the key influences that differentiate this mob from their peers.
Avowedly anti-fascist, Underdark take aim at some very specific issues here, too. Coyotes deals with the treatment of refugees in America; With Ashen Hands Around Our Throats is almost certainly the first black metal song to demand justice for the victims of the Grenfell fire. But, as that Skeleton Queen lyric suggests, Abi also writes about more personal infernos, with self-harm, addiction and emotional pain all addressed with unflinching, visceral honesty.
This sense of hard-fought battles, and a total inability to compromise, are key factors in a truly outstanding album. The UK underground is a richer place for this unique piece of work.
Our Bodies Burned Bright On Re-Entry is released on July 30 via Surviving Sounds.
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