If there’s one sub-genre with plenty of life left in the tank, it’s post-metal. The raw emotion, sense of anguish, and willingness to incorporate avant-garde elements into the music mean it will continue to evolve on its own terms. There’s little prospect of saturation despite the mass of bands that use Neurosis as their starting point. How can things grow stale when the disciples of the genre take the aching emotion of Swans, the experimentation of Celtic Frost, and the darkness of Joy Division as the foundations for their art?
Though more a combination of post-hardcore and sludge with a progressive nod towards Tool, Portuguese trio, Redemptus, are at home among the aggressive noise merchants of the scene, yet they’re just as keen to smash down genre boundaries as their peers. The opening title track is a case in point. One thing you cannot do with this type of music is fake it – the mental torment, soul-baring introspection, and cathartic rage are synonymous with the transcendent power of post-metal. Bassist and vocalist, Paulo Rui, puts his life on the line here with a roaring technique that mixes hardcore screams with the pathos of John Tardy (Obituary). Underneath his outcries are the sludgy guitars of debutant, Pedro Simões – a player who always looks to slash at the discordant shapes of his fretboard in search of the quintessential audio expression of anxiety. This is what Tool’s 10,000 Days would have sounded like with more vigour and less self-indulgence. How is it possible that only three people can produce such a monstrous sonic offensive?
Yet buried underneath the detritus of distorted guitars and hard-hitting snares, Redemptus find a persistent melodic calling that’ll surprise you as much as it floors you. ‘Sunk in Perpetual Tidal Waves’ is as damaging to your chest as the title implies when the opening doom chords ring out with added delay effects, but the spell-binding Jane’s Addiction passage that follows gives new meaning to the term ocean size. Here’s where you understand the importance of muscular vessel-bursting screams as the preferred medium of lyrical expression. Listen to the emerging nervous breakdown on ‘It Was Never Meant’. We can only hope the next Kayo Dot album seethes with the same paranoia and despair. Anyone who can match the avant-garde sludge of ‘Still Resemble the Silence’ deserves your awe and approbation.
Post-metal bands don’t do fancy pinch harmonics, eight-string guitars, or jazz-fusion shred fills, but they know how to use the middle reaches of their instrument in conjunction with a grinding bass rhythm. This is where you can hear the influence of post-hardcore at play. You’ll enjoy dissecting the interplay between guitar and bass on ‘How Much Pain Can Fit in One’s Chest’ once it branches out from the trademark Soundgarden riff (think ‘She Likes Surprises’ and ‘Superunknown’) and into Fugazi territory.
Redemptus are clear about the purpose of Blackhearted. They want to remove the stigma attached to anxiety and depression and get people talking. The existential testosterone rage of post-metal is better placed than most musical forms to make this leap. There’s no doubt it helped the band. ‘Purged by Light Engulfed by Darkness’ is the sound of a panic attack brewing in your mind. Think Mastiff but with more light and a bigger emphasis on building towards a climax. You won’t even notice when Marcos Martins introduces the tom drum patterns into the mix, such is the intricacy and coherence of the musicianship. Only on closing track, ‘Doomed to Crumble’, do we get something approaching a cliché, but the sincerity of the doom metal abyss gives way to a psychedelic light when you least expect it. Redemptus are earnest in their intensity and constant in their aggression – they’re too confrontational to be self-indulgent.
Blackhearted is a harrowing musical experience aching with brute honesty and a fragile stability that can break at any time. It’ll keep you on edge and give you a nervous tic, but it promises a new awakening if you can reach that higher state of consciousness that says, “It’s not enough to simply exist.”
Release Date: 07/09/2021
Standout tracks: Blackhearted, Still Resemble the Silence, Purged by Light Engulfed by Darkness
Suggested Further Listening: Kollapse – Sult (2021), Yashira – Fail to Be (2020), Lotus Thrones – Lovers in Wartime (2021)