Into the Deep – Blackfin


North Carolina trio, Into the Deep, enrich their music and lyrics with oceanic imagery and metaphor and allow their publicists to call their art “dive metal”. What the latter tag means is unclear, but the band start 2024 with a collection of their five standalone singles from last year with a new title-track to wrap them in an extended play. At six songs and twenty-five minutes, it makes for a worthwhile enterprise even if their music eludes easy categorisation.

The opening title-track is a microcosm of what this band create when they put their minds together. Eric Hambright’s vicious plectrum-velocity in the opening rhythm displays a venerable respect for the riff as an artform before his namesake vocalist, Michael Hambright, enters like a bear stumbling across a human settlement. A semblance of melody elevates the chorus to something other than an onslaught of aggressive outpouring, and there’s a definite groove metal menace to the guitar and drum interplay. Yet you’re never sure how to react to the music. Michael Hambright will remind you of Maurizio Iacono from Kataklysm in the way he groans through his roars, but this is not death metal.

The crisp drum production and chunky guitars bite like vipers in ‘Sandblasted’ at the head of an energetic attack with a loud bassline. Listen how the guitars harmonise with the vocals in the second verse – add a high-pitched tenor voice to this mix and you have a power metal song. You could imagine Trouble writing something like this if they reformed with an extreme metal vocalist. By contrast, Alice in Chains are the obvious comparison for ‘Seaweed’, which is still not as simple as you’d think after multiple listens. The pentatonic doom progression in the opening riff receives no aggression in the baritone vocal phrasings, which only enhances its intrigue. You can see how the Hambrights sat down to write the vocal lines for this song, the way you can see a rainbow when the rain lifts.

Of course, the ambivalence of this music is not the fault of the artist. They produce what the sum parts of their imaginations dictate, and sometimes it’s prog metal, other times it’s down-tuned trad metal. Eric Hambright appears to be using a Gretsch guitar in the opening chord formations of ‘Spaceshark’. This song feels too short for its own good once the drum groove gears up for a combination of grisly backing vocals and tormented roars that sear like a steak spitting at its chef on the highest setting.

Maybe Khemmis are the best reference point for the sound of this record. Into the Deep don’t seem to be doing anything new in their set up, but they find a margin of uniqueness when you add together their subtleties. Their compositions sparkle with a menacing force of navigation between agonising vocal roars and heroic guitar riffs. Closing track, ‘Hammerhead’, is what Venom Inc. would sound like with a death metal vocalist, yet it could appeal to a radio rock audience if you overlook vocals that resemble an animal trying to escape its zoo enclosure.

Into the Deep are a puzzle that you can conquer if you give it the time you deserve. How can something so simple on the surface be so baffling underneath?

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 03/01/2024

Record Label: Bioluminescent Records

Standout tracks: Blackfin, Seaweed

Suggested Further Listening: Khemmis – Deceiver (2021), Intronaut – Valley of Smoke (2010), Christ the Bait – Idolatrosities EP (2021)