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Dark Suns - Existence CD (album) cover

EXISTENCE

Dark Suns

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.92 | 79 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Receuvium
5 stars Dark Suns is an underground band even amongst progressive metal, which is a shame because (as you can tell by the ratings for 'Existence') they beat most of the albums on the market. This breed of complex, fluid progressive music fuses a variety of influences seamlessly: Opeth, for their dynamic, fluctuating song structures, Green Carnation for the claustrophobic atmosphere, Pain of Salvation for their emotional authenticity and style, and plenty more. It's quite a blend, pulled off with consistent, effortless grace on every song, and you'd be doing yourself a favour by picking this one up.

Apart from their immaculate musicianship and appreciation of songs as SONGS, rather than opportunities to show off, Dark Suns has a creative mind for concepts. This album follows the journey of one man's life, from birth to death, as he struggles to understand the world. It's something of a loose theme, but it's strong enough to keep the album together as a single piece while placing emphasis on each individual song. So whether you want to listen to a particular track or the whole eighty-minute voyage in one go, 'Existence' promises to be an unforgettable experience.

So, to look at it song by song:

With ZERO, 'Existence' begins with a two-minute ambient track, a short keyboard-led tune with the distant sounds of children playing and falling rain to ease you into the album's story. Niko Knappe begins narrating around halfway through, and what he's saying is very poetic, too. That's one of the many things going for this album - a fresh approach to lyrics. You'll find hidden segments throughout the album, and the lyrics booklet even has unspoken parts in brackets that give you a better idea of what the song is about.

Anyway, don't get too relaxed, because this quiet opener gives way to A SLUMBERING PORTRAIT with a bang. Opening with an explosive chord, this brief piece doesn't let up until the last few seconds. It's an unusual track, void of melody and very heavy, so it might take a while to grow on you. Took months for me.

THE EUPHORIC SENSE is the album's first 'normal' song, and it's quite an adrenaline rush too. The fiery riffs and upbeat atmosphere conveys a sense of... well, euphoria, and it couldn't feel more genuine. Switching between an uplifting chorus and hard-hitting instrumental sections, it's a standard track, but nonetheless a standard track done exactly right. It's the sort of song that would appear on the radio in a perfect society, but instead we get production-line pop, and what can you do.

Entering the song's darker twin, HER AND THE ELEMENT, you'll find yourself in slightly new territory, still upbeat but with a new, more enigmatic atmosphere. This song bounces between a heavy, catchy riff, a deceptively calm verse and a chorus that balances the two elements. It builds up to a climatic instrumental section that summarises the band's style: short, to the point, but awesome.

Throwing the album in a completely different direction again, DAYDREAM settles down with a dreamy keyboard melody that encompasses the first half of the track (called Fall: A Sleep). This isn't a complex piece, but rather a very dark, very dreamy part of the album. An acoustic guitar introduces the second half (Sleep: A Fall) where Niko's gentle voice drifts from quiet singing to whispering the perxplexing lyrics, which sound almost like a riddle. The sounds of a tuning radio lead this song into...

ANEMONE, which contrasts a dark, night mood with a more active, daytime atmosphere. This is what you get when you cross the fiery flow of 'Her and the Element' with 'Daydream,' as the instrumental bridge manages to meld heavy chords with an atmospheric acoustic passage in the way that Opeth made famous. Here, the lyrics start to take a more sinister tone, as the narrator contemplates the superficiality of our lives ('Tell me, how can I smile when there's emptiness behind my mask?') And as it suddenly drops into a quieter close, the first half of the album begins and the second, far more progressive side begins.

To begin this half, YOU, A PHANTOM STILL opens with a stunning keyboard solo that sounds like a full- fledged symphony orchestra. Beautiful! Already, this song shows a lot of promise, and as the solo fades out and blasts into a hard riff, Niko introduces the darker side of the album's theme with the line, 'Will you ever see the blood of children sticking in your mud? Observing their world going insane...' This is genuine poetry. 'You, a Phantom Still' proves to be the most Opeth-esque track on the album, and also the best in my opinion, as it fluctuates seamlessly from quiet acoustic passages to memorable, evil- sounding riffs. To close this eleven-minute journey the opposite of the way it began, the riff from the chorus plays over a woman shouting in the background, conveying a really sinister mood. The song doesn't stay the same for more than a minute, and it's a progressive masterpiece.

GENTLY BLEEDING utilises the same kind of narration to the end of the song, though this time it's Niko, and his screams and barely coherent vocals really give impact to the distressing tone of the song. It starts off with an innocent buildup but gets heavy fast, and the lyrics don't come in until the hard-hitting instrumental section is over, halfway through.

It comes to a close suddenly with a peaceful, soft beat that leads into ABIDING SPACE, the album's final ballad. This one has particularly beautiful lyrics. The only problem with it is that the drums are a little too disruptive for such a quiet track; the way I see it, this was an opportunity for Dark Suns to use a more innovative tribal style, but they overlooked it. All the same, this is a very peaceful track, a perfect contrast to the doomish atmosphere of what is to come in...

PATTERNS OF OBLIVION, the climax of 'Existence' and the second of three epics. This is both heavy and atmospheric, and was my favourite track for a while. You can hear it on the Progarchives radio, so give it a listen if you haven't already. Once again, this one switches between heavy and light passages, though the mournful mood remains consistent throughout. In fact it's so well done, most doom metal doesn't convey this sense of despair and desperation. A highlight on an album that is a highlight in itself.

Bringing to a close the introspective journey of 'Existence' is the thirteen-minute epic ONE ENDLESS CHILDISH DAY. This one comes in three distinct parts, the first actually being a low point in the album because it sounds clumsy and clugs on for a little too long. However, as the counter reaches 4:46, the acoustic section begins, and it was worth the previous dragged-out segment. A wonderful catchy tune progresses the song and builds up that dreamy atmosphere Dark Suns is so talented at creating. There's a reprise of the children playing from 'Zero,' which leads the narrator to realise the nature of his life, that he is 'a traveller, lost in a recurring spiral of [his] own existence!' With this, the track launches into its slow and heavy third part. It brings the album to a close with a grand finale: a reprise of the riff from 'A Slumbering Portrait,' played at about a third the speed. That's something of an easter egg, because one of the lines from that song was 'In my beginning is my end.' This slow and dramatic exit winds down, with sound clips from other songs making cameos (such as the first lyrics from 'You, a Phantom Still.') It finishes with a single note from a choir, symbolises the narrator's death, and brings to a close one of the masterpiece albums of progressive metal.

So if I haven't sold it to you yet, I don't know what will. If you consider yourself a fan of progressive metal or just progressive music - or, hell, of MUSIC - you should at least give 'Existence' a try. This is a gem that's not to be missed.

Receuvium | 5/5 |

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