Dark Castle: Spirited Migration …   4 comments

Far as sludge metal is concerned, there are quite a few genre-benders out there mixing it with other things, as if trying to get to the right mixture of elements. I am personally more fond of the doomier, murkier, more atmospheric variety of sludge, which just so happens to be the case with this little gem, Dark Castle.  The band hails from At a Loss Recordings, home to such acts as Black Cobra, The Body, Rwake and Deadbird and the same guys who published the Baroness/Unpersons split.  That said, Dark Castle is easily one of the most distinctive bands on their roster.  Here’s why:

      As a general rule, Dark Castle performs a kind of sludge/doom.  This means monolithic, heavier-than-heavy riffs lumbering on with guttural, brutal vocals on top, thick bass underneath and, as a pleasant surprise, quite dynamic drums.  The sound is seriously something out of this world.  The guitars groove as much as they pound, sometimes doing both at the same time.  There is enough teeth-grinding melody and heart-stopping punches to please crowds of both post-metal and sludge; plenty of harsh, fat, overarching guitars crushing the listener to go around.  The drums, courtesy of Rob Schaefer are incredible; he assists the mood but often goes beyond it and seeks to embellish rather than punctuate, which is a blessing compared to the normally minimalistic drumming style of sludge metal.

      The greatest strength of Dark Castle in “Spirited Migration” is their atmosphere.  Don’t think shoegaze, think night-time at the swamp.  There is darkness in this album, and at a completely different level.  It’s not any particular part, it is when all the parts come together.  Beneath the surging, churning, tumbling rhythms and melodies, there is a small void in which the murky mood of the album is set.  Of course, this could be unbearable if there were no breaks from it, and therein comes the band’s versatility.

      If we go track-by-track, it comes to a very nice ride.  “Awake in Sleep” opens the album with sludge-doom goodness, starting with some crunchy riffs and moving onto deeper, darker stuff.  The follow-up is an ever-the-more-harsher “Into the Past” that doesn’t relent one bit.  The title track “Spirited Migration” is a one-minute-plus acoustic piece, sort of like their own Flight of Sleipnir moment, which still somehow preserves the dark mood I was talking about earlier.  Then comes a definite highlight: “Growing Slow.” The passages here are so tasteful that it’s difficult to miss – the melody met with drums to move it along and ending in harsher, more primal passages… heaven.  Then comes “Weather the Storm,” the second acoustic piece of the album that sets a bleak tone and is the space rock moment of the album.  It’s an ambient passage punctuated with the occasional guitar, abuse of the echo pedal and heavy use of synthesizers that wouldn’t look out-of-place in a Star One album.  Then comes “Flight Beyond” which is where the album goes off the rails as this song is, start to finish, a testament to the talent Dark Castle possesses.  It’s harsh, it’s dark, it’s deep, it’s everything this album is and more.  Easily the best track on board.

      The odd one out (as there has to be one in nearly every album) comes with “Grasping the Awe” which is an off-kilter, psychedelic post-rock piece with spoken, dissonant (disembodied) voices mumbling where there aren’t growls.  It’s a peculiar experience, which, luckily, still holds up to the rest of the album. It’s kind of creepy, actually (sort of cinematic, even.)  The album closes with “A Depth Returns” which is a culmination of everything before it; thundering riff, bittersweet mood, swampy feel, harsh, pounding riffs along with melodic passages and growling vocals.

      FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO DON’T WANT TO READ ALL OF THAT, HOWEVER, HERE’S THE GIST OF IT: Spirited Migration is a by-and-large underrated record.  It’s easily one of the best albums out there, and if you dig any of the genres mentioned, you should have gotten it yesterday.  It is, simply said, perfect.  10/10
Review Written By Sarp Esin
Dark Castle @ Myspace

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Posted May 3, 2011 by doommantia in Dark Castle

4 responses to “Dark Castle: Spirited Migration …

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  1. great album!cant wait for the upcomming new album.live they r even better!

  2. Alas, I never saw them live. But they did let a new song on their facebook, it's like they're changing slightly, but it's going to be a little bit more, ahem “evil” than SM, the next one. A bit more black metal there.

  3. Great review!
    Can't wait myself for the new album although from what I've heard so far I don't like their shift in style…
    So them live last year with Kylesa! They totally kick ass!
    I regret that I haven't bought the t-shirt when I had a chance…

  4. Thank you, Dr. Doom:)

    I'm not entirely dissatisfied with the shift in sound, but the vocals could be less shriek-y and more growl-y. That was about it.

    Y'know “Flight of the Pegasus” seems like a decent demo/EP too, it's on the next-to-review on my list.

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