ZardensI remembered this Belgian band from their 2012 album ‘Breeding The Dark’ which was a good debut of highly proficient melodic black metal in the vein of many bands within the Scandinavian scene. At the time I said I hoped I was going to hear more from them and indeed band founder Warnacht obviously remembered, offering me their second album Blackness Unfolds for review. However it would seem that this is a chapter that is kind of going to be perhaps not totally representative of where the band are now as after it was recorded back in May 2013 three of the group involved promptly left and now the band are a completely different entity apart from Warnacht himself. Still as Blackness does Unfold we can still get a good idea of the progression of the band and again this is a good slab of melodic darkness from the group no matter what happened in its aftermath.

Some great thorny and intricate guitar work summon the lost sound of groups like Lord Belial and Dissection in on opening intro ‘Battle Rite’ which heftily storms into the blackened death furrow of ‘The Berserker.’ It bristles in with drums thudding and everything galloping off fast with a full blooded heathen cleave. Vocals from then singer Pascal Moraux bite and snarl away in the background and the sound is tight and bass heavy as it flails away. It’s all dished out with bravado and a sense of urgency before breaking down into some slower more melodic groove that allows the atmosphere as well as a solo to breathe into the music. Choppy and thrashing with a feel of bands such as Unleashed this pretty much takes no prisoners and is a confident start with a certain amount of complexity within it as the music flows through different passages. There’s a bit of a Viking feel to it all as it gets into the cleaving tumult of ‘Reborn,’ it’s nothing that you won’t have heard before but it’s certainly designed to get your neck cracking and no doubt has fists flung with spiked gauntlets clad in the group’s direction when they play live. Not sure exactly what happened within the bands ranks but I do get the feel that there is room for improvement here vocally as they are proficient and workmanlike but nothing more really. Perhaps new lungs-man Morholt has managed to bring a bit more definition into things now.

There’s little hanging around at all as the band romp through ten tracks in around 40 minutes, most of them angrily pitched and full of choppy, churning and tumultuous riffs. The counterbalance of aggression and melodicism is never lost with tracks often having a little bit of space within them for a patch of guitar harmony before cracking back in for a final gung-ho assault. Blackness Unfolds is an enjoyable album that sticks to its guns and comes out firing and hopefully it will serve well as a stepping stone for the new band to deliver something truly formidable.

(7/10 Pete Woods)