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Review

King Apathy – Wounds Review

Band: King Apathy
Album: Wounds
Label: Lifeforce Records
Genre: Post-Black Metal/Blackened Hardcore
Country: Germany
Release Date: February 22nd, 2019

In today’s rapidly changing sociopolitical climate, the human race is faced with an unprecedented amount of crises. From questioning the nature of God to attempting to find meaning in our brief lives, the modern age has forced humanity to recognize its mortality more than ever before. That phenomenon raises a crucial question: what could be more significant than human life’s brevity? Well based on their latest record, if you were to ask King Apathy, the band would argue that the finite nature of the world’s existence is a far more pressing concern. 

King Apathy is a post-black metal band with strong hardcore sensibilities, formerly known as Thränenkind. Characterized by their hopelessly pessimistic view of humanity, rather than attempt to promote any political message, King Apathy are far more interested in exploring the consequences the vices of human nature have on the natural world. This is the central theme of Wounds and it’s 9 tracks are variations on that theme. 

From the first note of the record, it’s clear that King Apathy have forgone some of their hardcore roots in favor of a more streamlined post-black metal sound. Fans have heard this shift beginning ever since Thränenkind’s King Apathy record in 2014, but in Wounds the progression seems more complete. There is a greater emphasis on clean tones and atmosphere, both of which help to accentuate the heavier parts of the album, of which there are aplenty. This record also features a rather large number of spoken word passages during calmer sections, which help to reassert the records basic message at the cost of losing some momentum. 

Where King Apathy truly excels are on their hardcore based tracks: Scars of the Land, Cleansing, Great Depression, and He Missed the Stars. Scars of the Land is the first proper track of the album and shows King Apathy at their best. With a chord progression clearly influenced by Winterfylleth and atmospheric black metal, around the halfway mark the band slows down and transitions into an elegant instrumental interlude. This is the only moment on the album that the bass is given a moment to shine and in the brief time that it has, its quite lovely. After about 20 seconds of twinkly guitar and bass, King Apathy are back to their all guns blazing blackened hardcore sound. The following track, Cleansing, loses the urgent tone of the previous number’s ending in favor of a more somber black/sludge metal atmosphere. This is pretty run of the mill hardcore tinged post-black metal though, but some of the lyrics are sure to make you scream in equal parts rage and despair by the end of its runtime. On the other hand, Great Depression is King Apathy’s full fledged blackened hardcore song of the record. It’s my favorite cut and that’s largely due to the fairly subtle lyrics and the track’s constantly moving guitar parts. My favorite verse, “the world will always die/…/working jobs we hate/to buy shit/we don’t need” over top of the syncopated guitar and drums rhythm is an emotional highlight of the album that I find myself appreciating more with every listen. With that verse and the songs melodic nature fit to make the coldest heart feel feelings, Great Depression showcases everything that King Apathy excel at, with not a second wasted. Finally last but certainly not least, He Missed the Stars is about the nihilistic nature of the modern world screamed over a backdrop of atmospheric black metal and it’s quite a glorious ride. There a real vocal highlight of Wounds on this track— the verse around 1:20 which ends with “i won’t tolerate your intolerance!” It’s the most overtly political King Apathy get on Wounds and serves a moment of real catharsis. The instruments playing in the vein of atmospheric black metal a la Harakiri for the Sky and double bass drum-work help amplify the emotional intensity of the tracks’ nihilistic message.

Sadly, as with most things in life, every good thing come with some bad. In the context of this album, I find King Apathy quite lacking in their post-black metal forays. They work well on some tracks, most notably in Scars of the Land and Great Depression but on repeat listens I found myself wishing songs like Revelation Time had more moving parts and more prominent vocals. And in the case of Reverence, although I really like the basic structure and ideas within the track, to me it doesn’t have a whole lot of real substance to justify its length. This track has plenty of moving parts, yet I don’t feel like it really goes much of anywhere. This is likely because many of the parts feel like they were copy and pasted together and don’t feel like they would flow all that well in a live setting. I doubt that’s what King Apathy actually did in the studio, but it sure sounds like it. The track’s primary redeeming quality is the spoken-word interlude around 4:20 that brings real Panopticon flashbacks and the build to the climax after the line “this world is my sepulcher!” That’s a brilliantly done transition and in my humble opinion is the only part of the track that is somewhat justified in its extended length.

Speaking of the vocals and spoken-word elements, they will likely be the most divisive element of whether or not one will appreciate this record. Where plenty of death and black metal vocals get shit for being unintelligible satanic nonsense, King Apathy’s vocals are anything but. They are passionate screams into the uncaring maw of the universe as a reaction to the atrocities humans commit against the natural environment. Every time I listen to Wounds, I’m reminded of Svalbard’s It’s Hard to Have Hope, one of my AOTY’s from last year, largely because the instrumental intensity and passionate vocal performance are quite similar. However, I often find myself wishing that I was listening to the Svalbard album because their material while incredibly dark, was still tinged with a meager bit of hope that kept listeners on edge and it often helped to relieve us from the very depressing nature of the record King Apathy sadly does not take a page out of Svalbard’s book for the construction of Wounds. The vocals are entirely devoid of any shred of hope, yet the nature of the music keeps the album from being heart-wrenchingly depressing. Instead, we are given a passionate performance of genuinely pessimistic lyrics over quasi-happy instrumentals that together feel like a conflicted mix which doesn’t become a whole lot better the more I listen to the album.

With all of that being said, when King Apathy hit, they hit hard. Their four hardcore-based tracks are some of the best songs the band has written in their entire career. The album as a whole flows quite smoothly and is the most “experimental” work they’ve ever done. With some time honing their new post-black metal tinged sound and if they brought back just a little bit of their hardcore urgency from their self-titled record, I am quite eager to hear what they have in store. Until then, Wounds is a pretty good record that met most of my expectations, until King Apathy started goofing around with their track lengths.

Rating: 7/10

Tracklist:

  1. Civilization Kills
  2. The Scars of the Land
  3. Cleansing
  4. Great Depression
  5. Revelation Time
  6. He Missed the Stars
  7. Reverence
  8. Wounds 
  9. Earthmother Rising

Total Playing Time: 45:39

Click here to visit King Apathy’s Bandcamp


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