Underground metal is a land of extremes. Bands playing so fast that a human drummer can’t keep up, bands playing so slow they make a glacier look speedy, bands trying to play the heaviest, the most technical, the most brutal, the most… ah, fuck it, you get the idea. What I’m attempting to get at is, there’s typically no such thing as subtlety in the circles we travel in. This is what makes Emptiness’ Nothing but the Whole such a refreshing album. Where other bands seek to crush your soul in the first thirty seconds, Emptiness would rather watch it slowly wither and die.
Emptiness’ sound is a highly insidious study in texture and nuance, incorporating elements of black metal, industrial and gothic rock. The band takes its sweet time pulling you into their difficult to categorize musical realm, and it takes several listens to fully appreciate Nothing but the Whole‘s dynamics, which often veer between nightmarish, atmospheric passages and pounding, blackened grooves. The band create a stunningly cohesive soundscape; each track flowing seamlessly into the next and dragging you down, deeper and deeper into suffocating melancholy. Emptiness are highly proficient songwriters, but they also have a deep understanding of the importance of sequencing and the way songs fit together, which has become something of a lost art in recent years.
Nothing but the Whole‘s production is gritty yet thoroughly modern, and is layered in such a way that the listener is bound to discover new sounds with each and every spin. Bassist/vocalist Phorgath (who also does time in Enthroned) deserves special mention for his work as recording engineer; this is the first metal album to come down the pike in a long, long time that I would classify as a great “headphones album.” Indeed, parts of Nothing but the Whole are so goddamn trippy that I’ve had several late night listening sessions where I’ve caught myself wondering whether or not some of the sounds I’m hearing way back in the mix are real or imagined.
There’s been a ton of great metal released in 2014, but few albums have approached the sublime quite like Nothing but the Whole. It will be interesting to see how far “out there” the band is willing to take their sound in the future, but for now we have this utterly unique piece of work which more than likely still contains sonic treasures to be unlocked even as I listen to it for the umpteenth time. All of this is to say that Emptiness have crafted one of the year’s most engrossing metal albums, one that’ll likely be haunting my dreams for the the foreseeable future.