Solypsis is the debut full-length from Canberra-based black metal maelstrom Bleakwood.
Formerly based in Sydney, the project has seen renowned drummer Dan Nahum (here plying his talents to multiple instruments, and vocals) forging his own identity among modern black metal. Prior to Solypsis, Bleakwood has offered a demo, EP and several split records, showcasing a vast, forward-thinking sound. Does Solypsis build upon these foundations?
Album opener ‘Narthex’ begins proceedings in mid-tempo fashion. Already it sounds like Bleakwood, being reminiscent of the material that has graced their split records. Driven by a relentless rhythm and obscure but decipherable vocals, the track soon breaks into a downtempo march, one that feels almost militaristic in its pacing. Subtle uses of synth add some additional atmosphere, before a feinted tempo change that sees the track out. A solid opener.
‘Compilers’ dwells in another atmosphere altogether, feeling akin to an excursion into a harsh, desolate valley. The production on this track highlights how much of a versatile drummer Dan is; the listener is drawn to the rhythms created even while the almost traditional black metal-sounding guitars, and vocals take to the forefront.
‘Phrenograph’ begins with more of that punishing atmosphere, interspersed with touches of acoustic guitar, and tasteful bass playing. Soon the soundscape shifts, adding more synth and allowing the acoustic passages to take the forefront, until a skilful, brief solo (reminding me of something that Nahum’s prior band Sword Toward Self might have produced). ‘Phrenograph’ is the first track that really demonstrates just how deftly Bleakwood is able to shift between atmosphere and tempo. Everything fits like a glove.
‘Locus of Percept’ features a commanding atmosphere, again propelled by the drums and the heavy guitars. A myriad of clean and semi-spoken vocals soon enter the fray; providing a contrast to the furious vocals that compose the majority of the track; set against instrumental passages that again ably display both Nahum’s compositional skill and attention to detail.
‘Otherness to Purity’ belies a scornful atmosphere, drifting between a raging storm of almost death metal-influenced riffing and sombre acoustic-led passages. Clean vocals beset against audible fury. Another exercise in contrast, yet dissimilar to those that came before.
‘Ex Officio’ is one of the shorter tracks on Solypsis but it is by no means a ‘typical’ one. Belying the project’s origins in traditional black metal, it still manages to incorporate an ethereal soundscape. It functions neatly as a prelude to the two concluding pieces of this album.
‘Précis’ offers more of that slight, subtle death metal influence beset amongst the black metal rhythms. The sparse use of synths aid this track in becoming a journey into and out of deep crevices and the highest of mountains.
Album closer ‘Kohen Gadol’ wastes no time in going for the throat, taking arms with a relentless wall of sound approach, almost dirge-like in its pacing. In some ways it feels the most ‘traditional’ of the tracks found on Solypsis, but as it spans through different elements and genres, it reveals more of that ambitious spirit that drives Solypsis and Bleakwood itself; a fitting closer for the album.
Bleakwood has been a band that this reviewer has followed since its inception, and enjoying each release as they revealed the intricate details of their construction; each incorporating deeper forays into ambitious soundscapes that unravel themselves further with multiple listens. Solypsis feels like a continuation of that ethos, but also a new chapter as it no doubt lays the blueprint for what may reveal itself in future. This reviewer looks forward to that eventuality.
4. Locus of Percept
5. Otherness to Purity
6. Ex Officio
8. Kohen Gadol