Underdark – Our Bodies Burned Bright on Re-Entry (Surviving Sounds/Tridroid Records/Through Love Records)
Underdark are unstoppable.
That’s what you’ll take away from Our Bodies Burned Bright on Re-Entry, the Nottingham band’s debut album.
They’re like a flare exploding across Britain’s troubled skies, a rallying call for the disaffected, a war cry for an alternative culture under threat.
They may be part of the UK’s burgeoning and increasingly diverse black metal scene, but Underdark’s ancestral spirits wear Crass, Conflict and Levellers shirts.
The Battle Of The Beanfield, the Poll Tax riots, the Greenham Common protests… those events might be fading from the national consciousness, yet the rage against exploitation, injustice and warmongering lives on.
There are new battles to fight…
On Our Bodies Burned Bright on Re-Entry, vocalist Abi Vasquez rages over the Grenfell tragedy (With Ashen Hands Around Our Throats) and the humanitarian crisis at the US/Mexico border (Coyotes), among other social and personal issues.
And Underdark’s singer wields a voice born in promethean fire.
From anguished shrieks to hellish death growls, she gives this record a serrated edge: one that many extreme metal bands would slay for.
Sonically, the quintet have raised their game even further since 2020’s Plainsong/With Bruised and Bloodied Feet – their first release to feature Vasquez.
Yes, intertwining glistening post rock with searing BM has been done before, but thanks to their dexterity, passion and vision, Underdark have forged a unique identity.
So if you’re thinking ‘British Deafheaven’, think again.
What’s particularly impressive is Underdark’s ability to marry complex dynamics and tingling melodies with a primal, eviscerating assault.
Coyotes, for example, evolves from a gentle, mournful intro passage into a tense, coiled spring of a song, before smashing down those border posts with a torrent of blastbeats and crashing, all-enveloping guitars.
Is Our Bodies Burned Bright on Re-Entry a black metal record?
Cold shards of black metal are deeply embedded in this opus.
With Ashen Hands… and the album’s title track seethe with BM’s primordial pulse.
And thanks to drummer Dan Hallam, Underdark can fire on all cylinders.
Purists, however, will undoubtedly baulk at Underdark’s unshackled approach to musical extremity.
But if the echoes of Mogwai, Explosions In The Sky and Converge in opener Qeres are too much for some, then so be it.
Plainsong was a Cure cover, for Odin’s sake…
Underdark have a bright future…
But they needed to back up their initial promise with something special.
Something that would cement their place in a UK scene brimming with potential.
And Our Bodies Burned Bright on Re-Entry is just that.
Brave, ambitious and unrestrained, this is one hell of a statement.
Band photo by Morgan Tedd.