I can’t remember ever hearing anything quite like “Error”, the Dark Descent Records-released 3rd album from Belgian band Emptiness. This is some extremely murky sound, a mash-up of noise rock, death and black metal.
Things don’t begin as they should, though: ‘Deafer’ caught me very much off guard with its booming, effects-laden, almost goth-metal vocals. Nothing like what you’d expect when you press Play on a Dark Descent release; more like Paradise Lost’s Gothic on steroids.
Things quickly get into gear—well, whatever that means on a record this non-traditional: ‘It and I’ is a maelstrom of contrapuntal guitar waves and unintelligible, heavy-processed vocals. It’s the kind of track that might spook you on a good pair of over-the-ear headphones alone in the dark at night. “Worst” comes on like Watain played back on a severely warped reel-to-reel tape, the vocal track twice as stretched out as the sludgy, melting guitars and splattered drums.
What Emptiness has done on “Error” is an alternative approach to the metal movement recently advanced by Gigan’s psychedelic tech-death and Ulcerate’s post-post-metal DM apocalypse: more expansive and enveloping than the traditional pummelling frontal assault of death metal or black metal (of the martial, blasting variety anyway), it is extreme metal as soundscape. However, what makes this release different is chaos—not of the oft-referenced metaphysical kind, but chaos as a compositional tool.
“Error” presents the listener with unpredictability in arrangements, and disorientation via incongruous ensemble playing. Seemingly deliberate impenetrability notwithstanding, the album passes quickly even though, at 38 minutes, it’s not particularly brief. Every song sounds different and the proceedings don’t get boring. By the time you are grounded by the double bass drum-reinforced and unusually (for this album) grooving closer ‘No Earth’ you realize you’ve just experienced a distinct voice in contemporary extreme metal. That’s a welcome development.