Distant – Aeons of Oblivion


Dutch five-piece, Distant, might be one of the most prolific bands in modern metal. Since signing to Unique Leader Records for 2019’s Tyrannotophia, they’ve release two further EPs and now present us with their sophomore effort. If that wasn’t enough, Aeons of Oblivion even comes with a limited-edition hardback novel to present the concluding part of their story of the fictitious land of Tyrannotophia. Slam metal and fantasy fiction are not natural bedfellows, but neither are they aeons apart (excuse the pun).

It’s easy to see why the dedicated slam/deathcore enthusiasts are excited about this record. Nineteen songs incorporating twelve tracks already released as precursor sagas on the Dawn of Corruption EP (October 2020) and Dusk of Anguish EP (March 2021), make for a lengthy concept album with many twists and turns and a heavy dose of downtempo dynamism. The excellent ‘Hellmouth’ throbs on a sparse diet of violent guitar downstrokes and growled vocals as if played from a sinking bog rather than a concrete studio floor. As you’d expect from a hostile deathcore band, the song is one long breakdown of stop-start chug riffs and mutilated face vocals in the tuning of drop-F (possibly even lower). Fans of Bound in Fear will find much to feast on here, as will the brutal death metal (BDM) crowd when they hear ‘Graveborn’. This one sounds like Born of Osiris covering Deeds of Flesh with an added dose of hysterical high pitch screams and pig squeals.

The old school death metal fraternity that turn their nose up at the slam/deathcore scene need to explain why they write off the genre as image conscious and susceptible to gimmickry. You must be insane if you think this is anything but extreme and hostile to an absurd degree. Okay, ‘Temple of Taglaroth’ starts like a dubstep drop and includes a Gameboy guitar solo, but the title track explores a wonderful Phrygian shred scale and a cameo appearance from Adam Warren of Oceano. ‘Oedipism’ is even fiercer in its disjointed groove and gothic darkness, almost like a Meshuggah take on Lorna Shore but with a wide-eyed psychopathy that conjures images of a man feasting on the flesh of his enemies. You’ll experience the inertia of wading through marshland when you stream ‘Cryogenesis’ through your headphones. Lochie Keogh of Alpha Wolf makes an appearance on this bizarre synergy of Pantera and Despised Icon. The ferocity gives way to purgatory at 02:20 seconds with a grinding slab of downstrokes and churning bass. They might even be using a pitch shifter at the end to deliver their final breakdown assault.

Those of you that heard nothing of the two EPs leading up to this release might be less enthralled and more bewildered by the monotony of Aeons of Oblivion. Fifty-eight minutes of relentless guitar chugging and inhumane mouth noises make for a bleak experience for the last seven songs. Ending the record at track twelve with ‘Dusk of Anguish’ would have been a sensible approach, but the band’s accompanying hardback novel needs space to unfold. It’s almost forgivable and makes you want to see it through to the end, even if your levels of interest are at breaking point. The last djun-djun-djun and djinn-djinn-djinn of the guitars cannot come soon enough before you reach the final track. But who cares about a remix of their ‘Argent Debt’ single from 2020 as the last song? Self-indulgence is the only word you can use here.

Slam/deathcore is still a divisive genre in extreme metal, and one that many people see as an interloper movement within the death metal spectrum. Harsh though this may be, there are some atavistic elements to the music that make it easy to lampoon. Sometimes, you lose impact when you try to be extreme for the sake of it. Distant just about manage to avoid these pitfalls, but this record suffers from overkill, like the latest Osiah album. The old adage rings true: you can do more with less.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 11/06/2021

Record Label: Unique Leader Records

Standout tracks: Hellmouth, Oedipism, Cryogenesis

Suggested Further Listening: Bound in Fear – Eternal Fear EP (2021), Brand of Sacrifice – Lifeblood (2021), Osiah – Loss (2021)