Contrast is often at the heart of great art. It seems to speak to us at a fundamental level, perhaps in relation to the nature of humanity as a species with the same instinct for self-preservation most animals have that contrasts jaggedly with our penchant for self-destruction. So it is with Toadeater’s Bexadde, an album bulging at the seams with grand self-certainty in its compositions, yet the words lacing the music tell a story of doubt and despair. The words “let the darkness swallow you”, which ring often through the likewise named track in a desiccated, ghoulish moan, linger after the song is over. Are these the whisperings of a devil-on-the-shoulder, drawing one to catastrophe, and who is it directed to, us or them?
Questions haunt, but so does the music. Toadeater have been around the block a time or two in the last few years, managing two incendiary LPs and one EP prior to Bexadde. The Germans effortlessly bridge a history in hardcore punk with lengthy black metal compositions that draw equally from harsh traditional sounds and expansive modern post-metal soundscapes. ‘Molten Gold (down your throat)’, the album’s lead single, demonstrates this best. Punk beats give way on a dime to rapid double bass underpinning scything tremolo riffs, melding an uncommon urgency to austere black metal. The vocals lend towards a scream, but in a full-throated, ragged hardcore or metalcore style. Even when the songs sound like they’re barreling full steam ahead with caustic fury, there appear moments of sombre reflection or even outright emotional breakdown. What could be more human?
There are only four offerings on Bexadde, but with each clocking in between eight and fourteen minutes there’s plenty of material to dig into. While it lacks a few of the most emotive melodic passages found on previous albums, what Bexadde offers is a crisply composed modern black metal album that shows a band coming into their own, in spite of whatever self-doubt haunted them in the process.
Bexadde is out via FDA Records and Kellerassel Records (cassette) on September 9th and can be ordered here.
Words: Brett Tharp