Belgians Emptiness have been on the go since 1998 and this makes their fifth studio album and my first encounter. Yep, finger on the pulse as ever… Anyway, I gather they come from a kind of black/death background which on the strength of Not For Music is a bit of a surprise as there’s precious little of either genre here. OK, maybe a fleeting half glimpse of something not a million miles from Hybernoid (if anyone remembers them) but mostly this is… Hmm. What is it?
Honestly as the haunting, semi-ambient ethereal shape of the opener ‘Meat Heart’ whispers across the room in a cloak of slow, graceful keyboards I’m reminded of Monumentum. They began life as a gothic/doom band but by the time 2002’s Ad Nauseum, appeared they had pitched headfirst into a darkwave sound with just the echoes of metal and for me that is where Emptiness sit. There is a darkness and a flow here, no doubt, and a discordant counterpoint to much of the melody that seems to bring in an unsettling melancholy.
It is a difficult album though, quite deliberately. There is nothing immediate here, no bright hooks to hang your coat on and enter. You have to listen hard and feel your way inside. This is not a criticism in any way, this is serious music that quite rightly demands that you approach it on its own terms.
The downside is that once inside, even though I am far from a stranger to this style of music, I find that Not For Music has an unfortunate tendency to drift. Rather than songs it moves from musical passage to musical passage with the only real variation being how dense the echoing guitars are and whether the picked notes take precedence. I occasionally find myself jerked to attention by a particular passage, a motion of the keyboards, a whisper in the vocals, but too often it simply sets me adrift alone.
This is not a bad album at all. It’s a fair bit of metal rooted darkwave, just that too often for me it slips between prelude and interlude with nothing between.