You might assign the much maligned blackgaze genre to Ontario duo, Within Nostalgia, but that’s only if you’re being lazy. Now on their second album in two years, Void & Decay is an admirable attempt to lock the metallic elements of their sound in a melancholy flux of contemplation. The music is sombre and oppressive like the mood of a funeral mourner after leaving their best friend’s wake with a five-hour drive ahead of them.
Opener, ‘City of Nameless Faces’, is a tumult of emotions from the first chord-plucked guitar passages to the harmonised overdubs floating over the top. The Animals’ ‘House of the Rising Sun’ crossed with My Dying Bride is the best description and will warrant a finger on the chin and an inverted bottom lip until they crank up the tempo with a high-range melodic death metal riff. Alyssa Broere’s dreamy voice juxtaposes the aggressive death growls of Kye Bell and helps to achieve a sorrowful tone that lingers throughout the record like a long dormant regret coming back to haunt you. Part Agalloch, part Harakiri For The Sky, it never tires and sounds just as poignant on the tenth listen.
We should be in for good things, and ‘Beneath the Unworthy Silence’ sustains the momentum with a triumphant mix of melodeath and death-doom posturing. Fans of the heavier side will appreciate the first blast beats of the album at the two-minute mark, but a good song fails to mutate into a magnificent one due to an unwillingness to explore heavier metallic rhythms. They compound this problem on ‘Black Light’, which takes the high-frequency tremolo riffing of legendary alt-rockers, Placebo, but mixes them with atmospheric black metal soundscapes. Could we call this depressive alt-rock or perhaps atmospheric black indie rock? Both terms are absurd, but it might well be the closest Within Nostalgia come to an original sound. It’s harsh to criticise an artist for attempting something unique, and one cannot help but like this track despite its lethargic mood and determination to stay in a non-metal major key for most of the composition.
At six tracks and 31 minutes, Void & Decay, is smart enough to avoid dragging the listener into the abyss of an interminable despair, yet it also lacks an extra layer of metallic fury. The malevolent growls are worthy of dirtier and heavier riffs rather than the post-rock adaptations of black metal. ‘Higher Than My Fears’ should be better and has a strong foundation, but the outcome is like Veruca Salt playing melodic black metal. Promises of crunchier guitars keep you in suspense, but the moment never arrives and you’re about to give up when they throw in a surprise tempo change and bass guitar fill to end the song in style. Those slow-motion melodic shapes are tantalizing and poignant and a good way to end the album with the excellent ‘Desideratum’. Here we get louder kick drums and a Medieval guitar pattern. Faint keyboard samples of soaring contralto harmonies only add to the sense of foreboding, like those Sunday nights you spend watching the news with the prospect of the Monday workday nagging away at you. This could be REM playing black metal or maybe the other way around.
It won’t excite lovers of the nastier and more misanthropic side of metal, but Within Nostalgia are triumphant in their aim to weigh down the listener with the maudlin dread of tomorrow. Void & Decay is a decent album, but it could have been even better with a sprinkling of demonic fury.
Release Date: 18/12/2020
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: City of Nameless Faces, Desideratum
Suggested Further Listening: Soul Dissolution – Winter Contemplations EP (2020), Harakiri For The Sky – Mӕre (2021), My Dying Bride – The Ghost of Orion (2020)