Overtoun – This Darkness Feels Alive


Like many capital cities throughout the Latin American world, Santiago, Chile, has a pulverising metal scene and no shortage of heavy bands. The artists here have more to rage against and a darker recent history hanging over their heads despite living in one of the most advanced nations in South America. Grindcore and death metal have a strong presence among the disaffected youth, just like in Indonesia, yet no big names stand out. Overtoun are more on the death-thrash spectrum with less of a punk edge and an abundance of technical skill, but there’s no doubting the passion or sincerity of their music.

This Darkness Feels Alive is an album that demands to be heard with the lyric book in hand and your finest headphones to enjoy the audio mastering by none other than legendary Metallica engineer, Flemming Rasmussen. The fact the Chileans secured the services of such a name tells you everything you need to know about this record. This is an album that aims as high as Death’s Symbolic and almost reaches the impossible standards set by Chuck Schuldiner. Listen to opener, ‘Underneath’, and marvel at the chromatic guitar fills at the end of each riff as the quartet rip through the speakers with the slimy malevolence of the debut Obituary LP. ‘Humanity’ is just as heavy yet far more poignant in its subject matter. The pen of vocalist and lyricist, Yoav Ruiz-Feingold, will impress you as much as the musicianship of his band mates. “The race is rigged but these people don’t care/ They love the nightclubs, hotel rooms and thin air/ In the end, I’m not so different, we’re all just dying inside/ But I’ve already died,” sounds like the manifesto of Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver.

It’s easy to narrow your focus on unbridled hostility and relentless death metal pummelling, but Overtoun make it clear their agenda is much more ambitious. ‘Alone’ is similar to Pantera’s dark ballad, ‘Floods’, in the way it builds on a simple passage of arpeggios and dwells in a permanent state of disillusionment. Here Ruiz-Feingold explores a softer baritone voice and works his lungs into a harsher tone for the chorus as the trio behind him toy with the menacing ambience of the classic Rollins Band sound from the mid-1990s.

Sometimes the influences are too obvious. ‘Awaken the Beast’ uses the same chords and rhythms as Death’s title track from Symbolic, yet you can overlook this when you read the lyrics. We don’t know if Ruiz-Feingold is speaking from experience or imagining the discrimination faced by the indigenous races of Chile, but his words ache with righteous self-pity. “I exist in the in-between of worlds all alone/ They don’t know what I am, just that I am not one of them/ And my own will never know how I suffer silently/ I am never at home, even amongst my own.” If you thought Venom Prison had a monopoly on this type of social rage, think again.

Like all good metal albums, This Darkness Feels Alive aims for the right balance between technical competency, raw power, and ritual repetition. ‘Toxin’ is like English legends, Cancer, covering the intro to Celtic Frost’s ‘I Won’t Dance (The Elders’ Orient)’ with a vicious metallic hardcore chorus. The title track plucks at a wealth of beautiful acoustic passages before transitioning into a morbid death-doom lament about the dangers of isolation and alienation. You’re already prepared for anything by the time they showcase their cascading folk guitars and flute awakenings on the instrumental brilliance of ‘Araucaria’. Overtoun know no boundaries and show that a one-dimensional focus on blast beats should never be the end goal of death metal.

The quartet’s Bandcamp page says their aim is to build a new metal scene full of youth, passion, and energy. Who can argue with them on the evidence of their sophomore record? This album deserves to be heard far beyond Santiago and in every household across the global metal underground.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 23/07/2021

Record Label: Self Released

Standout tracks: Underneath, Alone, This Darkness Feels Alive

Suggested Further Listening: Death – Individual Thought Patterns (1993), Bloodbeat – Process of Extraction (2021), Cancer – The Sins of Mankind (1993)