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February 1 2005
Emptiness - Error
Not quite unique but different all the same
Swathed in blackened noise with a core that pulsates with a plodding, nebulous style of death metal comes Error, the third full length release from Belgium’s Emptiness (who feature two members from Enthroned), and it is one hell of a fun (and rather unsettling) ride.
The sound of Error is somewhat hard to pin down exactly because there are ample lashings of a number of stylistic influences including the aforementioned black metal and death metal as well as doom and noise but, while none of these joined together does a unique musical entity make, it is the way the band has grafted numerous sounds together in more of a Frankenstein’s monster fashion as opposed to one with surgical precision that Error is able to exert its truly ugly nature and work in a way that this intermingling of genres may not have initially suggested.
The tracks on Error are all presented as mid-paced numbers with relatively simplistic riffs and song structures so there was always the chance that the album could have ended up being rather boring – and it may well have been if it were not for the excellent atmosphere the band has been able to wring out of the material as well as some truly unpredictable moments scattered throughout the platter’s 40 minute running time.
What stands out more than anything else for me on Error is the material’s almost ritualistic sound. It’s not quite comparable to bands like Portal or Mitochondrion who wear their ritualism far more overtly, but there is a crawling, trance-like underpinning to Emptiness’ music that acts as a cohesive agent, tying their songs together and providing a sense of context and consistency throughout the nine tracks on offer. This is helped along in no small part by the genuinely creepy use of bassist Phorgath’s backing vocals whose chant-like screams and howls sit just below the surface, emerging intermittently to add an additional layer of discomfort to an already uncomfortable situation.
As previously stated, the music itself is technically rather simple with a heavy focus on relatively uncomplicated riffs and reasonably easily identifiable structures but it is actually this inherent simplicity that makes Error work so well. Not only does this approach bring with it hints of an old school ethos but it also provides the listener with an easy entry point into the vibe of the album itself which is arguably more an important aspect than the riffs themselves. Had the band pushed into more challenging and complicated compositional territory I tend to think there would have been a very real chance of losing the substantive core of what they were trying to achieve in the first place and their use of restraint in this instance is actually rather commendable and, to this reviewer at least, preferable to the alternative.
Error isn’t without its faults and there are definitely songs that work better than others (Deafer, It and I, Worst, and the title track stand in a league of their own, for example) but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is still a highly entertaining album with a sound that, while perhaps not unique in the strictest sense, also doesn’t sound like every other black/death metal hybrid out there either. The excellent atmosphere in conjunction with some (admittedly) simple but catchy as hell riffs has been enough to keep me returning to this album over and over again for the past six weeks or so and my desire to keep returning hasn’t diminished a single bit over that time. I can think of no greater endorsement than that.
(Dark Descent Records)
Added: May 27th 2012
Reviewer: Michael O'Brien
Related Link: Official Website
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