Released in Europe in March of 2012, Darkness By Oath’s Near Death Experience is finally seeing its official North American release thanks to the good folks at Metal Blade Records.
The melodic death metal effort from the Spanish band is dazzlingly ordinary stuff, though, and there’s not much to it beyond the customary genre conventions. The musicians are gifted, but the material is uninspiring. There’s no sense of menace or blackness, despite Aritz Nabarro’s snarls and the twin guitar spasm of Tristan Iñiguez and Alain Castaño.
Darkness By Oath came into being in 2002. Influenced by Swedish death metal, the band went through its paces and covered At the Gates’ “The Swarm” for a compilation tribute album in honour of the melodic death metal legends. By 2005, Darkness By Oath had released their debut record. They took to the road, went through a line-up change, released a second album mixed and mastered by Dan Swanö, and toured some more.
Near Death Experience, their third album, was recorded in November of 2011.
It is the sort of record that hits all the marks, right on cue, but doesn’t have any impulse or ingenuity flowing through its veins. It is hard and on-point, with melodies developing and declining back into the dark, but nothing sticks. There isn’t a notable song in the bunch and Near Death Experience just kind of sashays to a finish after about 42 minutes.
The paint-by-numbers game begins with a diminutive instrumental introduction (“Into the Gloom”) and courses into the feedback of “In an Obscure Eternity” with ease. Nabarro tries to attack, but his vocals are somewhat dormant and the guitars play through a leaden melody with speed and drive.
It is probably fair to say that the speed and drive, combined with Nabarro’s adamant but dull vocals, are the only components that make this album resound on any level. Metalheads can crank up the volume in the headphones and rock out with their relevant thingamabobs out, but seeking a deeper, challenging experience is not recommended.
The tedium lugs through tracks like “Viole(n)t Intentions” and “Steams of Blood.” The technique is on, the Cookie Monster vocals are rolling and Asier Bilbao’s drumming is accomplished, but the fragments don’t fuse together in any significant way.
Darkness By Oath’s Near Death Experience is a yawn of a death metal album. It is boring and repulsively mediocre, taking parts of the Gothenburg sound and painting a picture of melodic death metal that even the late Thomas Kinkade would find dreary.