The last time we caught up with De Profundis they were playing a sparsely attended all-dayer at Leicester’s The Musician Pub and yet, even there in that less-than-crowded venue, you couldn’t help but appreciate that De Profundis were destined for bigger things. Now, on ‘The Emptiness within’ released on the excellent Kolony Records, the band are poised to gain the recognition that they so richly deserve as they deliver an album that has poise, precision, subtlety and power raging through every one of its nine searing, gloriously innovative tracks. Quite what sets the band apart is hard to pin down. It could be their exquisite musicianship, but that alone is never enough; it could be their ferocious riffs and devastating vocal attack, but that also is a facet shared by many bands; it could be the progressive streak that takes their songs above and beyond the realms of the ordinary, but, then, even this has done before. So perhaps it is where all of these things coalesce and where the band seamlessly (and seemingly effortlessly) combine all these things that makes them so special and so deserving of your time and attention. Whatever ‘X’ Factor it is, De Profundis undeniably have it, and this is one of the most exciting extreme metal albums to have come our way in some time.
Openign with ‘from the depths…’, De Profundis work on developing mood and atmosphere from the beginning. The first track is but an intro, but one that has been meticulously crafted to build a very genuine sense of anticipation that builds until the twisted attack of ‘Delirium’ screams into view, the brutal rhythm guitar offset by a fluid classic rock solo and jazzy bass runs that are as unexpected as they are welcome. It’s an awe-inspiring start that soon leads to a rampaging black metal attack, all guttural vocals and pummelling percussion all of which would impress even if that was all that was on offer… but it’s not. Not by a long way. Just as the band have taken you as far dwon the extreme path as they are willing to go, the music does an almighty volte-face, with the bass leading the way towards altogether different climes, the guitars suddenly smoothing out and hitting a jazzy Santana vibe that miraculously does not sound disparate but which fits into the track as if it was always meant to be there. This is the sort of abrupt U turn that hitherto only Opeth and the Conservative government would consider (and which only Opeth got away with) and the result is an immense track whcih runs through a gamut of sounds and emotions always leading you into unexpected recesses and areas before you even realise that a change has taken place – and all this takes place on just the first track.
‘Silent Gods’ is the next track and once again it is the bassist (the implausibly named Arran McSporran) who deserves special mention for his amazing performance which speaks of countless hours spent practicing his instrument and developing the idea of what can (and can’t) be done with a bass guitar within the context of a song. This is not to detract from the stunning guitar work or powerful percussion – it is simply that it is rare to hear the bass played with such skill and ingenuity and it sits right at the heart of what makes De Profundis so special – each and every musician in the band contributes a huge amount to the overall feel of the music and the result is a complex, adventurous mix of extreme, brutal, and occasionally beautiful music that has you standing in simple, unaffected awe of the band who produced it. ‘This wretched plague’ opens on a reflective note, the guitars rippling through your speakers with an unexpected sense of calm that is as suddenly still as the calm after a storm and as welcome as the inevitable freshness torrential rain brings to the air. It does not last for long, however, and the music explodes into brightly coloured life as the band pile in with gleeful ferocity, destroying the sense of tranquillity with a serpentine ferocity that draws the breath from the body. Next up is the aptly titled ‘twisted landscapes’, a mind-boggling number of chaotic complexity that takes a strong mind and steely determination to follow. Once again the band’s remarkable musicianship is demonstrably to the fore and yet it never feels like they’re engaging with complexity for the sake of it – nothing that doesn’t serve the song makes the final cut and the result is a series of songs that challenge the intellect as well as fire the adrenal glands with their blistering intensity.
Taking a jazzier direction, ‘release’ is a chance for the rhythm section to shine whilst the guitars are initially content to add colour to the sound before crashing back in for a jerking, syncopated, menacingly metallic assault that takes any number of detours before it’s near eight-minute run time is through. ‘Dead inside’ is a heavier number that takes the dying days of Emperor as it’s cue (think the crazed urgency of ‘Prometheus: The discipline of fire and demise’) and then the comparatively brief (a svelte six minutes) ‘Parallel Existence’ opens for all the world like a latter-day Pink Floyd number, all languid guitar and jazzy time signatures before an almighty riff at 01:20 tears the progressive ambience to pieces, the band throwing thunderous percussion and jaw-dropping solos at the mix for an instrumental number that gives the whole band a chance to flex their musical muscles. ‘Unbroken (A morbid embrace)’ draws the album to a close over the course of a nine minute mini-symphony that refuses to follow any expected patterns and instead repeatedly decimates your expectations, proving to be a shattering curtain call indeed.
In producing a record of the quality of ‘the emptiness within’, De Profundis have raised the bar for extreme metal bands everywhere. Here you will find riffs that shatter your peace of mind, moments of sublime beauty, musicianship that is quite simply beyond reproach and astute, innovative song-writing skill. There is not a weak moment, not a bum note or poor performance anywhere to be found and whilst De Profundis themselves may go on to top this remarkable piece of work, it’s hard to imagine anyone else doing so… not this year at least. If you consider yourself a fan of metal in any shape or form this is quite simply an essential album.
As always we’re never afraid to back our reviews up – check out ‘The Emptiness Within’ here: