An album is a labour of love. On some records you can practically feel the hard work, stress, anxiety, and sacrifice that has gone into making them. When you listen to Our Bodies Burned Bright On Re-Entry, the debut album from black metallers Underdark, the passion that went into it is palpable. Since forming in 2015, the Nottingham based band have become one of the shining lights of the current crop of anti-fascist black metal bands. Their unique take on the genre blends the full-scale metal attack of their peers, such as Dawn Ray’d and Wode, with the post- metal of ISIS and even touches of screamo, in the style of Funeral Diner or Infant Island. Their music is shot through with a strong political consciousness, with songs rallying against the evils of fascism and racism, as well the innate injustices of capitalism.
It has not been an easy ride for the young band. Just when they were on a promising trajectory, they lost their original lead singer, Max, and then as they found a replacement, in the form of the irrepressible Abi, covid hit and scuppered the band’s plans to play and record. All of this makes the release of Our Bodies Burned… an even more striking achievement. The album was originally mastered in 2019 with Max’s vocals, but then after his departure and Abi’s recruitment she rewrote the lyrics and recorded her own vocals throughout 2020. Her mix of personal and political lyrics, along with her impassioned delivery, combine perfectly with the rest of the band’s brutal yet beautiful playing to create something very special.
Opener ‘Qeres’ really sets the tone for the album. It opens with lilting, atmospheric guitars and a melancholy spoken word passage before smashing in with a discordant black metal riff and soul-searing vocal, and then pivoting again into a post-hardcore breakdown similar to Envy. The epic title track uses frostbitten black metal mixed with ambient guitar tones to tell a deeply personal story of opiate withdrawal which brings with it an intimacy you don’t often associate with the genre. One thing that strikes you throughout the album is the stunning guitar interplay and the ease with which Ollie and Adam (no last names given) can switch styles to create music that draws you in. ‘Coyotes’ (which details the brutal treatment of refugees on the American/Mexican border) adds hints of Ennio Morricone-esque melody to some doomier, midpaced riffing, while the Grenfell-inspired ‘With Ashen Hands at Our Throats’ channels the band’s palpable anger at the state of play into whiplash riffs and snarled vocals before dropping into an evocative final third which brings all the emotion behind the track to the fore. Album closer ‘Skeleton Queen’ is the closest the band come to ISIS/Cult of Luna territory, a towering monolith of a track which switches between heaviness and melody perfectly and finds Abi delivering a deeply personal account of the toll being a creative takes on a person, emotionally and physically, while simultaneously proving the worth of such endeavours.
The perseverance this band has shown in finally getting Our Bodies Burned Bright On Re-Entry out has paid off a hundredfold. This is an album which gets under your skin and into your soul, the raw emotion and power on display is a commitment to the band and their ideals. Easily one of the best metal releases of 2021.
Our Bodies Burned Bright On Re-Entry will be released on 30th July via Surviving Sounds (UK), Through Love Records (EU) and Tridroid Records (US/CAN), and can be ordered here.
Words: Dan Cadwallader