So, I’ve listened to the new Emptiness album Nothing But The Whole probably around fifteen times now, and I still don’t know what to call it exactly. Progressive Blackened Doom maybe? Eek. Gonna stay away from that one.
Indeed, you might as well approach this album by dropping any conceived notions you have about what Emptiness might sound like or any desire to categorize the piece of music you’re about to listen to. Filled with strange, hypnotic rhythms, unexpected turns in song direction (see: Behind The Curtain), and bizarre, spoken vocals that rasp eerily over ominous, daunting constructions, Nothing But The Whole takes you to a dark space of reality you’d rather not venture.
And it does so with songs that grab your attention immediately, often in grandiose fashion (see: again, Behind The Curtain or Go and Hope – holy fuck). As if Emptiness specifically aims to lure you to your own end, the opening tracks have instant appeal to them, so much so that you have to hear what comes next; and through the dark corridors of their twisted visions, the songs always seem to nosedive and send your psyche crashing. Moments of meditative reflection pervade, but in this reflection, for the first time, you see yourself for what you truly are – nothing. Not surprisingly given the names, this eye-opening, yet stomach-turning elucidation of reality probably comes through most effectively on the title track and “All is Known”.
In less majestic terms, what you can expect here is the unexpected. The arrangements are very odd, dissonant and scrambled at times, clean and gloomy at others. I would describe the albums pace as plodding, often residing in the mid tempo but occasionally breaking the mold. The production values are massive and unlike certain other “weird”, innovative groups I’ve seen them compared to, everything comes through crystal clear, and you won’t have to spend any time groping around in murk to catch what’s actually going on.
And that’s kind of the point here, I think; Emptiness doesn’t want you to struggle, they don’t want you to have to put forth conscious effort just to understand what they’re playing. On the contrary, they want you placated, if not entirely sedated, as if a medical procedure to rearrange the thoughts and views on reality one has in their head were about to take place.
What occurs on Nothing But The Whole just simply happens to you, and it changes you. I’ve felt ambivalent at times about this album, but there’s something strangely infectious about it, something that draws you in from the warmth of certainty and into the world of uncertainty, and keeps you coming back for more. It might remind you at times of certain other bands, and I could name a few, but doing so would be ultimately grasping straws, for this record simply defies almost all conventions and isn’t really comparable to anything I’ve ever heard. Whether or not you understand what is happening to you during the course of its rendering, in some way or another, you’ll be feeling the need to feed a tremendous void that will ultimately lead back to repeated listens of this unique gem.
Available on CD/LP now at Dark Descent Records