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Dark Castle's new album "Surrender to All Life Beyond Form" Reviewed

Dark Castle, the Florida duo comprised of guitarist/vocalist Stevie Floyd and drummer/vocalist Rob Shaffer,have turned heads in the metal community for a number of reasons since their 2009 debut LP Spirited Migration, not the least of which being that the band produces an incredible amount of sound for two people, milking their vintage gear for incredibly rich and layered textures,nor that Ms. Floyd is just that, a Miss. Their recent release, Surrender to All Life Beyond Form, sees the band pushing the sound they developed on Spirited Migration—heavy, uncompromising, spacey doom—in newer directions, further experimenting with eastern influences and sounds and new levels of fuzz. The result is a more accomplished, complete, and interestingalbum that shows just what the band is capable of. 

From the eerie, hypnotic intro of the self-titled track that leads off Surrender to All Life Beyond Form, DarkCastle establishes an experimental, disconcerting and raw tone that persists throughout the album. We do not first hear Stevie with her signature fuzzed-out scream, but rather wailing in some sort of delirious shaman-like fashion. This is just one of a number of vocal styles that are utilized over the length of Surrender, in addition to spoken word,screams, and everything in between, a variation that goes beyond the screaming that by and large characterized Spirited Migration. The next track, “Stare Into Absence,” is the sort of bleak,despairing, and slow song that many come to expect from a band that has been frequently categorized by critics as a doom metal band, but it is not a surprise that this is one of the only songs on the album, along with “Heavy Eyes,” and the crushing “I Hear Wind,” that really sounds like a straight forward doom song. Dark Castle themselves have long disagreed with being confined within the limitations of doom, and Surrender seems like a refutation of that labeling. “Create an Impulse,” “Spirit Ritual,” and“To Hide is To Die,” are anything but doom; instead, these three songs, a collection of atmospheric instrumentals and buzzing electronics mixed with spoken word, showcase the band’s experimental side and desire to create a more holistic, yet varied, expression of artistic creativity and ambition over the course of Surrender.

 Surrender to All Life Beyond Form is, then, a step forward for Dark Castle, and a very good one at that. The album is interesting in every sense of the word—varied in tempo, experimental, and diverse in sound—and as listeners we get to watch two very talented musicians exploring new, uncharted areas, with the well-tuned ear of Sanford Parker of Minsk, who recorded the album and added synths, as a guide. “Seeing Through Time,” may be that one perfect song on the album, where Dark Castle achieves the awesome mixture of atmospheric unease, crushing guitars, spurring drums—the sort of “Hell Yeah!” bad ass song that will get multiple plays—but it is not necessarily the highlight. It is surrounded by songs that ebb and flow and combine to produce a haunting pre-conceived whole. Some may have criticized the album for being too short, but if it is short, itis because they sacrificed length for album synthesis. I will be photographing Dark Castle, along with Yob and Batillus, when they play Le Poisson Rouge onTuesday as part of The Blackened Music Series.

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