The Depth of the Darkness is the third full length from Dutch melancholy metallers The Fifth Alliance, and to be fair it’s an apt title. Hailing from Breda, Netherlands, they’ve created something very dark, from the artwork to the music and lyrics, it’s blacker than Darth Vader’s codpiece. Effectively starting life as a hard core band, over the years they have gradually altered their sound, from their debut Unrevealed Secrets of Ruin, to their sophomore release Death Poems, to where we presently find them. It feels like they now have a more settled sound; playing post-metal, mixed with elements of doom and sludge.
The album begins with ‘Black’ (definitely not a Pearl Jam cover), slow, melodic, clean vocals, it’s almost a pop song, bringing to mind Belgium’s Brutus. Until that is, closer inspection is paid to the lyrics and then you realise all is not as it seems. The lyrics are ominous and joyless, including lines such as ‘Changes in me, I feel it in my blood, drawn to the darkness, the black side of me’ and ‘The depth of the darkness, it goes on and on, white just ends, black carries on’. This is bleak, if you’re in need of a pick me up it may be worth looking elsewhere. When the song hits the three minute mark it explodes; sibilance inducing singer Silvia Saunders’s vocals switch to an almighty evil roar, comparisons to Eva Spence from Rolo Tomassi are inevitable, maybe there’s also a hint of Justine Jones from Employed to Serve. The juxtaposition from soft, sweet, butter wouldn’t melt to raging she-devil growl is impressive and made all the more when coupled with the dark lyrical content.
There’s an air of the macabre about the album, ‘Black’ seems to be an ode to the protagonists’ grim acceptance of the darkness while their life spirals to a grave conclusion. ‘Hekate’ continues in a similar vein, lulling you in before once again, all hell breaks loose. The lyrics are bewitchingly spat out, while drums from Tim Van Der Zanden are particularly impressive. It’s an epically evil sounding song, weighing in at ten minutes with at least three instrumental minutes bringing it to a close. The majority of songs here are slow burners, gradually building tension until they inevitably burst into life, but it’s the intriguing lyrical content which manages to elevate the songs to a higher level. ‘Hellfire Club’ is musically similar to what has preceded it, but a key difference is that the lyrics are sung like a narrative, a piece of literature set to music if you will, with no discernible chorus, verses or standard song structure. The track tells the story of a boy coming into contact with malevolent monks who torture and sacrifice for their own personal gain.
The Fifth Alliance are difficult to pigeonhole, there’s the aforementioned post everything/sludge/doom but also adding layers of atmosphere to give the tracks a more melodic and depressing edge. The vocals may not be to everyone’s taste, but Silvia’s voice is clearly more versatile than before, which suits the music, helping to bring to life the dark stories and characters they’ve created. There are only five tracks on the album, but the listener shouldn’t feel too short changed, as it clocks in at a whisker over forty minutes. The Depth of the Darkness is the sound of a band trying to carve their own niche and do something a little different, repeated listens proves this is a grower. A promising effort; at times it does feel repetitive, with a little more variety they could go on to bigger and gloomier things, the dark side grows stronger with this alliance.
(6/10 James Jackson)