“We die praising the Star Maker, the Star Destroyer.“
With little tangible to pin down in a typical ‘kvlt’ sense (beyond corpse paint and obsidian stage pageantry), the mercurial interstellar ritualism of Bern, Switzerland trio Darkspace remains one of ambient black metal’s most intriguingly opaque and highly original offerings. Since their advent in 1999, Darkspace have eschewed trite Satanic misanthropy in lieu of something deeply simpatico, in both concept and celestial atmosphere, with the late philosopher and influential science fiction visionary Olaf Stapledon, a stylistic journey far greater and more vast than mere Abrahamic theology (or its demonstrative antithesis) was ever girded for. Their latest Oort cloud of pure cosmic holocaust, III I (Avantgarde Music), continues to drive with deliberate, cometary purpose through creative wormholes in a manner that, even when slightly off target at times, has set Darkspace on a galaxy-spanning course light years ahead of their hidebound, metaphysically limited cohort.
Once again featuring Paysage d’Hiver mastermind Wroth, fellow guitarist/vocalist Zhaaral (Sun of the Blind) and bassist/vocalist Zorgh, Darkspace turn the ubiquitous blackened motif of winter completely on its Northern head, instead embracing the coldest equations that dwell beyond the permafrost of terrestrial cartography. Claustrophobic tension squeezes every last ounce of precious O2 out of the epic 27 minute opener, “Dark 4:18,” which marries icy analogue synth and vacuum-tight riffs in a mesmerizing, at times menacing balance of enigmatic listenability and experimentation. Darkspace immediately establish and maintain this overarching sense of extreme isolation in hostile environs, crafting an appropriately bleak soundtrack for looming galactic collapse.
If at times the production values on III I aren’t quite up to the task of shouldering the Newtonian burden of seemingly boundless ambition (both bass and programmed beats are largely buried in midrange murk, especially on “Dark 4:19”), the crystalline clarity of vision and strong performances throughout more than compensate for these minor technical shortcomings. “Dark 4:20” ends III I as it began, with little apparent regard for trifling concerns of the flesh or spirit. Instead, Darkspace center their transcendent focus squarely on the infinite, panoramic expanse past stratospheric (and spiritual) confines.
Sense of wonder firmly entrenched, Darkspace have created not just another slab of collectable wax in III I, but a noteworthy, mostly successful attempt to explore, and expand, the very parameters of black metal consciousness beyond the stars.