As new releases go E.P’s are always a bit strange, coming as they do between album and tour cycles.
By their very nature they are generally too short to get a real feel for any particular message a band wishes to convey and regularly end up sounding ill-conceived and half-formed. Often they can be filled with very little apart from generic, uninspired cardboard cut-out tracks, under the auspices of contractual obligations or, more cynically, as a blatant cash calf (an album of filler being the full cow of course…).
On the odd occasion however they are a marker in the sand for a band that simply cannot wait to lay down new, exciting ideas and get some reaction from their fans.
The new effort from the protean De Profundis is fortunately of the latter variety.
The E.P, entitled ‘Frequencies’ is now available to download http://deprofundis.bandcamp.com/album/frequencies-ep at no cost.
The succinct nature of the title is perhaps a deliberate nod towards the not-so-subtle change in sound from the London based outfit. The E.P delivers a relentless sliver of umbra from which it is difficult to catch breath.
Opening track, ‘A Strange Awakening’ delivers an intensity delivered with a degree of urgency previously lacking in earlier releases.
Nick Tingle’s drumming is deceptively simple but remains dogged and powerful throughout, and, along with a few timing changes, is well complemented by riffing and leads which effortlessly dip in and out of traditional death metal.
In fact the song in places harks back to something of the old school death metal stylings of the likes of Malevolent Creation and Suffocation.
This is no bad thing but the band makes sure to consistently maintain an underlying thread of their progressive leanings throughout, be it the fretless bass meanderings of Arran McSporran or the twin guitar assault of Shoi Sen and Paul Nazarkardeh.
Of particular note is a departure from the usual delivery by vocalist Craig Land. His newly found innovative phrasing works very well within the context of the song. The short caustic parcels of lyrical vituperation lend further power to the overall impact of the track.
‘Illumination’ slackens the pace slightly but nonetheless maintains the proverbial hand at the throat.
The track sounds as though it may have been conceived within the collective mind of Masvidal and Reinert, starting off with what sounds like a subconscious homage to Cynic’s ‘Celestial Voyage’ all sinuous bass and interwoven guitars.
It rapidly morphs into a driven beast and brings to the fore what has become the hallmark of De Profundis, the progressive element. Their technical virtuosity is resplendent and unabashed. The difference now perhaps is that it is effortless, a great deal less self aware and most importantly used with tact.
Although innovative and consistent on previous releases, Tingle steps it up a level on ‘Frequencies’. Plenty of timing changes and dare it be said, a liberal basting of non-ironic blast beats keeps the beast lumbering forward.
This perhaps illustrates one of the main observations about this release and the new sound it brings with it; the driving, forward facing sound compared to the wanderings and musings of past releases.
‘Singularity’ continues the assault and at the outset again subconsciously borrows a driving riff similar to that on Faith No More’s ‘Malpractice’.
Sen’s now easily recognisable guitar tone has become the sound of De Profundis and always provides a familiar touchstone, an underlying thread of authenticity and warmth.
The recorded snare sound is poor but does not detract too much from the quality of the drumming.
Over the course of the last three full album releases the band seem to have finally learned the balance between keeping the attention of the listener whilst still delivering the clever bits.
Instead of the previous liberal basting of tech-sauce spilling over the edges and onto the floor, it is instead dabbed in just the right amount in all the right places. The sound aesthetic is all the better for it.
Cover versions of standout tracks like ‘Crystal Mountain’ from seminal albums by pathfinder bands like Death are hallowed ground. Most bands would sensibly steer clear and rather select an obscure B-side or suchlike to round out an E.P.
Perhaps De Profundis are not sensible…
More likely I suspect they are simply bloody minded and beyond genuflecting to sacred cows. This is an approach which resonates well for a band with ambition. Sacred cows be damned.
There is little to say on the matter apart from the band pays respectful homage to this iconic song without resorting to toadying. They do it justice…in spades.
Overall, the production of ‘Frequencies’ is generally acceptable, but it definitely suffers in places. Distortion plagues the very start of the first track and makes an occasional appearance throughout all four tracks.
In the grand scheme these are minor points which do little to tarnish the power of the music. It is a free taster of a new direction recorded in the band’s own studio, as and such it more than serves its purpose.
A few stray pinch harmonics sneak under the fence but with any luck they will be rounded up in time and mercifully slaughtered before the next full album release. It really is for the good of all Mankind…
Musically there are still the occasional nods and glances over their collective shoulders to NWOBHM, but this time around the past has largely been left in the past. Instead the band seem to have evolved their way into their own sound; a new sound for a new age.
The shorter, darker songs with their harder hitting more concise delivery have created more focus for both band and listener. This is the sound of a band which is cognisant of past indulgences, which has taken action to address past mistakes, which has clinically excised the fat and has come out fighting fit.
This is the sound of a band starting to hit its stride.
This is De Profundis.
A devastating 8/10 flak explosions
*** If you would also like your band /album reviewed then feel free to contact me with a download link to your material. If I like it I will review it. If I don’t I won’t ***