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Atmosphere, Abstraction, Annihilation: Det eviga leendet Show No “Lenience”

lenience

Oddly enough, sampler albums don’t typically lead to new discoveries for me. In fact, it’s hard for me to connect with individual songs taken out of context of their respective albums. I’m not immediately “sold” until I’ve heard the whole story, so to speak, though I don’t shy away from the intense feeling of excitement I feel during that first taste/listen. I cherish my impulsive emotional reactions, but they never blind my analytical curiosity (hopefully). And so much was So Very True just recently: a few days ago, I was simply taken aback by Swedish black metal outfit Det eviga leendet and their upcoming debut album Lenience. Its penultimate track “Stellar” sits right after the recent Fallen Empire sampler’s not-as-impressive two-minute opener by Andeis and blasts hard and mighty like the collective negative spirit of a thousand cosmic voids. Immediately hooked, I dug into the rest of Lenience to discover things like superb atmospheric layering, bleak-as-fuck riffing, and excellent overall synchrony/cohesion in the execution of headspace-inducing black metal.

My first reaction to Lenience was this: instead of that permanent ascendent feeling (like the music is constantly “building up” to something), Det eviga leendet use their skills to tilt the incline toward total and unending descent. Over the album’s runtime, time seems to accelerate as gravity sucks you toward the center of the earth. There’s an overarching down-ness which also characterizes Lenience‘s hypnotically dark (or darkly hypnotic?) tone and mood throughout. The progressive, layered noise of post-metal peeks in occasionally to help ripen things up, but it’s always immediately lambasted by unforgiving swaths of blast beats and to-the-skies wailing, i.e. extremely expressive suffering. This is to say that the album transforms and molds itself, sometimes shifting abruptly between passages or ideas, other times smoothly drawing the transition out for dramatic effect, but always in tune with its bleak but bleeding emotionality.

I like that about Lenience: it feels naked and scared. Not that the songwriting isn’t confident (it surely is), but that the layered combination of elements which comprise the final sonic impact leaves you feeling emotionally exposed. The album benefits from its likeness to a horror movie score of sorts — one of those deep, twisted, existential thrillers which makes you uneasy and slightly out of tune with reality. For its relatively brief runtime, Lenience weaves dense thickets of hyper-emotionalized black metal, sparing moments for ambient noise and interlude, but always aching to explode into something much noisier. It might actually be an anxious listen — though you can always be sure an infinitely deep denouement is ready to devour you.

What this band does particularly well is remaining totally coherent and put-together even during the loudest, most instantaneous outbursts of energy. The impressively impassioned vocal performance acts as glue in this regard, de-industrializing the music’s perfect execution and tying thematic elements together into a narrative. Det eviga leendet venture into abstraction for sure — this is atmospheric black metal no doubt — but they never feel lost in space or buried deep within an alien planet. Actually, Lenience feels human and right at home, its strongest asset. And while it would be unfair for me to criticize it for being too short and therefore not Homeric enough to be called “triumphant,” this is the music of descent, the music of devastation, the music of death. Humans typically don’t triumph in the face of death, but Lenience wails louder and harder than most others on its way out.

Lenience releases Friday via Fallen Empire. Follow the band on Facebook here.

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