Madness, weirdness, and creativity usually make for a nice mix when it comes to metal. Not all the time, mind you. If everything was this way, what was strange and perplexing would be the norm, and no one would benefit from that. So, in the current state of things, when something comes along that has the aforementioned characteristics, it’s case for celebration. Or at least your attention.
I witnessed Pittsburgh’s Dendritic Arbor live before I heard their intense, challenging new record “Romantic Love.” No slow jams, by the way, so if that’s what you were hoping to get, prepare to be disappointed. Unfortunately, the one time I did see them, they were marred by technical issues (not of their doing), so it was hard to get a full grasp of this band’s might in that setting. But damn, if this record didn’t make that clear? This band mixes black metal with grind with elements of death, and it all comes out pretty strange. Yeah, sure, a lot of bands employ these elements into their sound, but not quite the way Dendritic Arbor do on “Romantic Love,” a record I highly recommend and the follow-up to their just-as-caustic “Sylvan Matriarch.” This new collection is one of those scene-splitting records, and this is one of those bands that will make you hear extreme metal differently and wonder why more artists can’t get on a creative level like this.
By the way, when I speak of Dendritic Arbor’s unconventional ways, it’s not like they’re doing off-the-wall things that could turn off listeners. They just have their own way of going about business, their own formula for making these things happen, and sometimes things shift and change so abruptly, you wonder in what direction to head. But that, to me, is a plus, as the record is such ferocious fun and has me excited to see the band live again under better circumstances. As for the members of this devastating unit, Maxwell Beehner, Christopher McCune, Tom Bittner, and Adam Henderson are the credited maulers. Providing the noise elements on this stunning, wrenching record is Topon Das of Fuck the Facts, Kyle Lambert, Jon Leone, Haultaine III, Elaine H, and Noel Mueller. They help color in the terrifying corners with noise interludes that make this thing ever scarier.
“Murmuration End” is the opening salvo, with tricky, mind-crushing guitar work splattering everywhere and the entire package hemorrhaging blood. The growls sound utterly harsh and raw. In fact, and maybe it’s just me, but the vocals sometimes have a Brian Johnson scrape to them, if he was fronting the most volatile band anywhere. The track is creative and fierce and eventually gives way to a slow-grinding finish. “Blooming Amygdala” starts with a noise squall that simmers before the track ignites into a wall of mathy death, along with tortured wails that sound painful. The band mashes you heavily before tossing you into a sea of mechanical chirps, with the sounds invoking madness. “Horizontal Key Vertical Gate” is insane, with the music burning with a rage and the vocals coming off like a creaky troll looking for flesh. The tempo is dizzying and spirals into madness, with chaotic savagery and manic, warped growls that pull you face-first into the last minutes of electronic storming. “Giallo” is a fast burst, an assault that rips out of the gates, shreds flesh in an instant, and finds the band unloading total punishment.
“Ewaste” runs 8:12 and stabs hard, with the vocals spat out with disgust, speed bursts that maim, and a delivery of unforgiving menace that comes at you from all directions. But just as it feels the entire scene is running out of control into a brick wall, the pace changes on a dime, and the soundscape floats into the scene. The sheet of black ambiance and eerie taps spreads and grows blacker, devouring the last half of the track and leaving you in the midst of an oppressive nightmare. “Ceremony of Dust” digs up some doomy graves, with mucky guitar work, vicious growls, and a thrashy assault, with the track’s title repeated over and over like a chant. Shrieks tear through the surface, and more hazy interference emerges and delivers you to closer “Pestiferous Disease Vectoring.” This cut is outright heavy and off balance psychologically, with a damaged pace cutting a curved path, the assault being delivered slowly but massively, and the track melting into a bed of spacey zaps and warped hisses.
Just know now, this thing is going to fuck up your brain. Dendritic Arbor’s agenda seems to be to twist various elements of the metallic spectrum to fit their mission, and “Romantic Love” certainly hints that they pay no mind to convention. That’s really refreshing to realize, and be it live or on their smothering albums, the band is going to change what you think about metal and how it’s formulated for the absolute best. Be prepared to adjust to them, because they’re not bending for you or anyone.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/DendriticArbor
To buy the album, go here: http://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com/album/romantic-love
For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/GrimoireRecords