BLACKWATER DROWNING – SONDER // SATORI
Label: Blood Blast Distribution
Author: Matthew McCune
01. The Filth Element
02. Abyssal (feat. Brian Kingsland)
03. Mortal Coil
04. Snake Juice
06. The Caged
07. Aberrant Leaves
As a reviewer of consistently kick-ass heavy metal albums, it is my obligation to stay vigilant to approach every review with the upmost sincerity and to remain as professional and unbiased as humanly possible. But with BLACKWATER DROWNING’s debut LP “Sonder//Satori“, I must admit I felt like a kid in a candy store or, more appropriately, a 12-year-old discovering melodic death metal for the first time again.
BLACKWATER DROWNING, a melodic death metal band from North Carolina, has been offering us glimpses into their particular brand of melodeath for a few years now, releasing two EPs “Delusionary” and “Ruthless“ in 2015 and 2019, respectively. With the 2022 release of “Sonder//Satori“ on Blood Blast Distribution, the band has effectively exploded on to an admittedly bloated melodic death metal scene with unique efficiency and a refreshing sense of youthfulness.
The album begins with the cleverly titled “The Filth Element“, an energetic and atmospheric punch of brutality. Guitarist Jeremy Bennett provides us with frantic guitar leads layered over a doom-laded setting, which will serve as our primary motif for the remainder of the album. Vocalist Morgan Riley introduces us to her brutal screeches, serving as an homage to classic second-wave black metal vocalists.
Moving into “Abyssal“, we hear a textured chugging guitars sprinkled with arpeggiated leads that fit nicely with the rest of the album. “Mortal Coil” continues the competent layering of vocals and melodic leads like a blanket over the strong rhythm section that drives the album forward like a tank battery.
Following this, the album transitions to the fourth track “Snakejuice“, showcasing the rhythmic diversity of the band. Leaning in the direction of melodic metalcore, this track gives us the dichotomy of clean and brutal vocals all provided by Riley. If you’re in the market for demonic guttural vocals, this track offers everything you may be searching for, with the lower register of Riley’s growls giving such a brutal vibe that would make Mephistopheles blush. “Saint” gives us a perfectly groovy drum intro that leads into more bloodthirsty barbarism that has defined the album thus-far.
At this point in the album, it’s important to take a break from the action to appreciate the thematic elements of what we are hearing. As metalheads, we are all used to the undeviating presence of ‘evil’ being a predominant connotation in our music. The sense of ‘evilnesss’ in “Sonder//Satori“ feels refreshing as opposed to cliched. It may be completely ephemeral, but the way that darkness is portrayed on this album feels more inviting as opposed to the played out sensibilities we are all scared to admit have become stale.The album closes with “Abberant Leaves” and standout track “Voyager“ that offers a brief lull in the activity, indulging the listener with clean guitars and even cleaner vocals before the unclean vocals enter the chat and bring the album to overdrive once again. Riley’s delivery on this track is stunning, with the low gutturals, high shrieks, and clean vocal performances giving us the feeling of three individual vocalists creating a wall of sound.
Okay, enough gushing. This album has honestly rekindled my love for melodic death metal, a passion I had thought was all but squandered. BLACKWATER DROWNING has nothing but great metal on the horizon and my expectations for their follow up will be sky high. With the unique sense of thematics, menacing vocal performances, constantly driving rhythm sections and excellent melodic delivery, this album is sure to provide hungry metalheads with a satisfying listen.