Album Title: Emergence
Label: The Artisan Era
Date of Release: 10 April 2020
I am convinced that The Artisan Era must dabble in the arcane arts. Either that, or they have a hidden battery farm where they produce band after band deep in the shadows that deliver heavy and complex progressive death metal. It seems like a never-ending conveyor belt of face-melting aggression and technicality emerges on their label.
The latest to be spewed forth is Symbolik, with their sophomore release, ‘Emergence’, and album apparently eight years in the making. Hailing from Stockton in California, Symbolik are a quintet comprised of vocalist Chris Blackburn, guitarists Allen Burton (ex-Alterbeast) and Taylor Whitney, bassist Daniel Juarez and drummer Brandon Clevenstine, who also handles the symphonic samples that crop up within this record from time to time.
On a first glance, the music of Symbolik might strike listeners as yet another of those impossibly technical and complex death metal albums with little to differentiate it from the myriad of others currently on the scene. This was largely my first thought when hearing ‘Emergence’ for the first time, alongside ‘this album sounds well-produced’. However, with plenty of time on my hands at the moment, I gave it some attention and very swiftly, I became rather enamoured with this record.
What sets these Americans apart from others is not necessarily the complexity of the material or their love of warp-speed musicianship, although both of these elements are demonstrably present and correct. Just take a listen to the frenetic bombardment of ‘Augury Of Ancients’ that sets ‘Emergence’ in motion, not to mention the unrelenting blastbeats and fast, intricate riffs. Arguably, these are the kind of staple elements that all prog/tech death metal possess. In the case of Symbolik, it is their penchant for the neo-classical, the symphonic and a surprising amount of melodic nous that gives them their edge.
‘Invoking Oblivion’ provides ample evidence of just about all of these ingredients, kicking off in frenetic style before slowing down ever so slightly to inject a little groove. And then there’s a lead solo that emerges, initially loose and soulful before veering into lightning-fast neo-classical runs to a backdrop of warp-speed drumming. Blackburn gurns with savage intent over the top but there’s no denying the surprising catchiness to the track.
Mentioning the guttural and higher-pitched vocals of Blackburn leads me to mention the lyrical theme of ‘Emergence’, for it has such a thing. According to the press release, “…this album is a tale of an individual who embarks on a journey of self-realization, death, and rebirth. It begins as an idea of infinite possibilities but with only one outcome.” It certainly gets the brain thinking and is an added bonus, something further to explore as you listen.
The more symphonic elements come to the fore within the equally savage and uncompromising ‘A Tyranny In Decay’, thanks to the samples created at the hands of Clevenstine. They’re not overdone or pompous either, just in place to provide extra depth and texture to the overall composition, allowing the onslaught a small opportunity or two to take a breather. Once again, the lead guitar solos are ridiculously fast but also mellifluous, more so than they have the right to be in fact.
By this point, the scene is well and truly cast, with no real curveballs thrown into the remaining seven songs. But, the truth is, I don’t necessarily want the band to dive off down different paths or tinker with their approach; what they do is interesting and enjoyable enough that I am more than amply entertained and engaged throughout.
Tracks like ‘Dirge Of Creation’ with yet another giant lead solo at its heart atop subtle synths, or ‘Coalescing The Void’ with its more majestic framework and commanding overtones just prove my point. So does the more theatrical, dramatic ‘In Servitude Of Silence’, which is a short in length, but is easily one of the most striking tracks thanks to a more pronounced symphonic element, lovely melodies and a cool groove – I only wish it was longer if I’m honest. And probably the most melodic (and therefore my favourite) track is saved for last, in the form of the superb ‘When Eternity Collapsed’, a thoroughly fitting end to a highly laudable album.
I’m not entirely sure there’s much else to say except The Artisan Era have done it again. Their Midas touch has ensured that they have yet another high quality technical progressive extreme metal band on their books, one that should be on the shopping list of all serious fans of this type of music. Brutal, complex, memorable, often grandiose…what more do you want?
The Score of Much Metal: 85%
Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: