Dodecahedron is almost a by-word for complexity for its own sake – a three dimensional 12-sided die that, I read someone point out, is only used by nerdy role playing gamers (yep, me too back in those more carefree days) who regard multi-faceted, multi-coloured dice as a fashion accessory. The description has been levelled at many an avant-garde black and death metal band and particularly ones who rely on directionless, jazzy dissonance to fill those extended passages of time. Dodecahedron were certainly partially guilty of that in their first foray.
It was both demanding and rewarding too, though. Undoubtedly in the Deathspell Omega mould – indeed many complained they couldn’t get away from that when listening to it. But it bore the marks of greatness even if you were asked to wait until track four to witness it in its full glory – while the band limbered up in an artistic expression of someone been asked to simultaneously track the diverging paths of 144 twelve-sided dice rolled by the sort of gamer who believes the harder you roll, the better the result. But when the pressure-release value was flicked in the second half of the album, it became easier to view the whole as far more than just a partial success.
It was perhaps the album that needed to be made to assure the firm roots of the band’s reputation because no one could question its intelligence and undercurrent of sheer power. But we were so looking forward to seeing the band’s full potential released in what we all hoped would be even more explosive form on the next album. We’ve had to wait five years to find whether the band was able to break free of its more obvious influences and find its inner, jagged, black mojo – but here it is.
The new and much improved Dodecahedron who, like a crack team of obsidian clad samurai, have now added siege weapons and gunpowder to their armoury to complement their array of shiny, razor-sharp weapons of skill and stealth. The thundering two-minute intro should be enough to indicate that the band is back and in a much evolved form. While the first-track proper is a reminder of how well crushing dissonance can work when crafted to perfection and delivered with ferocity.
This time the album builds as it goes, offering up its glorious depths for more readily than last time round, rather than leaving you floundering in the shallows of musical mathematics. Kwintessens borrows as much from black metal’s dark past while throwing in some of that reliable old ambient creativity as well as the musical madness of the modern death metal avant garde like Gorguts or Ulcerate. The album shifts unapologetically into more sublime pastures and eventually layers of pure ambience and noise and a final black, shining metal punch in the face.
Kwintessens is drenched in dark atmospheres and psychologically cloying textures – even if it might feel a little too calculating at times. Too emotionless, like it has become distracted with the artistic feat of its own creation. The trick with this stuff, at least in my view, is to engage but while still managing to pack in the complexities. A part of me wonders if this is just a couple of years too late – and would have been better placed more swiftly on the heels of the first release. Still, a more than solid release that is otherwise hard to fault.
(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)