Black Tundra – Daylight Dark

Band: Black Tundra
Title: Daylight Dark
Label: Independent
Release Date: 16 December 2019
Country: Poland
Format Reviewed: Digital Stream

Following up their self-titled debut in 2017, Poland’s BLACK TUNDRA are back with “Daylight Dark” a collection of songs that fit pretty well to what you might expect from the name and the album cover; this is Metal of the heaviest nature, and I don’t mean riding on horses and wearing codpieces, I mean the weightiest of riffs, resonating in the darkness of a dying star.

Evoking quite a range of possible influences in these expansive, brooding, overdriven riffs, one of the first things that come to my mind with album opener “Red Tide” is Desert Rockers KYUSS. While the aesthetic of BLACK TUNDRA is altogether darker and more morose, with mournfully bellowed vocals a la MASTODON or even NEUROSIS, what gets my mind back on KYUSS on more than just the opening track is the band’s tendency to take a big riff and ride it out, on a long extended groove.

On tracks like “Eyes Burned” and “The Passing” the band seems intent on the riffs building and building towards a hypnotic state. The music carries along all huge, flowing mostly instrumental guitars and drums like ISIS, or such creators of great big riff landscapes. All this is fine and the band definitely succeeds in keeping a dark oppressive atmosphere. There’s many a satisfyingly heavy and suitably head-banging, mid-tempo riff, as on “Made to End”, but what’s lacking are real standout riffs and melodies to elevate this music above the level of being constantly promising.

Final track “In My Blood” is a case in point: Meaty, pounding drums; guitar riffing like a more groove-centered OPETH, cira “Blackwater Park”, and this cool dissonant, dun-dun-dun-dun break interspersed with the main groove. It all sounds great on paper, but for an almost ten-minute journey there’s not a great deal of building. Just a pretty cool, enjoyable, but not especially standout experience.

Although the sound and atmosphere that BLACK TUNDRA create appeals greatly to my Grunge/Sludge/Doom Metal sensibilities, I’m left with the feeling from this album, that there’s an awesome, surprising crescendo that never quite comes. Maybe this is partly the way with this kind of music, but as appealing as the band’s sound is, I often feel as though the songs burst in straight into third gear, but fail to rise beyond fourth.

And that kind of sums up the album as a whole for me. It sounds great, the band plays tight and heavy, I’m reminded of lot’s of music that I really like (without feeling like I’m just hearing second-rate imitations), That final spark of inspiration isn’t quite there to make this music really stand above what it is to me from the word go: cool, heavy, doomy, riff-riding Metal, that’s enjoyable while it lasts, but time spent with this album is definitely not time wasted. 7/10 Tom Boatman

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