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Death Metal Darklords Drowned Return With ‘Idola Specus’

SPIN Rating: 8 of 10
Release Date: July 29, 2014
Label: Sepulchral Voice

The first few murky, ominous moments of “Die niederen Weihen” set the tone for the rest of this eight-song, 37-minute comeback-slash-debut full-length from German death cult Drowned, whose last proper recording was 2006’s Viscera Terrae. The production here is miles ahead of that record, but retains its warm, organic sound, and the songs themselves are more dynamic and interesting than their predecessors.

Many things have changed in the eight years since we heard an honest-to-hell new release from Drowned (not counting the pair of rehearsal demos 2013 brought). The band has tweaked its lineup quite a bit, bidding farewell to Mors Dalos Ra (also of Necros Christos) and adding two members of like-minded German death metallers Essenz, G.ST (bass, vocals) and T.E. (drums). Death metal’s murkiest corners have been plumbed dry by upstarts with dreams of occult mastery, and very few bands possess the talent and vision to truly capture that desired darkness. Drowned’s return couldn’t have been timed better.

“Cast into Negative Form” sees the rhythm section take the lead with a mid-song break that qualify as a full-on drum solo were it not for a moody, muted riff sulking in the background, and “Black Projection” sinks into the deepest doom, recalling the gloomiest moments of early Paradise Lost circa Plains of Desolation. “Gnomon” is a faster, leaner beast, with Drowned indulging a rich, bass-heavy groove throughout its four-and-change minutes. “Letzter teilbarer Strahl” is one of the album’s showier tunes thanks to Tlmnn’s fancy fretwork and T.E.’s inspired percussion; one might even mention the dread word “proggy” thanks to the technical chops on display.

“Death Metal is not a musical contest to see how many notes you can play; it is an atmosphere, a spiritual condition,” guitarist and founding member Tlmnn remarked in a recent interview, and he’s spent the past twenty years of Drowned’s existence practicing what he preaches. Idola Specus is dark, atmospheric, and compelling death metal with a heavy focus on churning doom riffs and the slightest progressive tinge. Sure, Drowned rehash Darkthrone’s Soulside Journey riffs and may owe Demigod a few ghostwriting credits, but at least this band is doing it better than 99% of death metal’s current crop.