It’s high time people acknowledge the advent of “blackened deathcore.” It’s hard to deny how far bands like (new) Black Tongue, Lorna Shore, and Worm Shepherd have taken the style spearheaded by the likes of Abigail Williams and Winds of Plague, but Sweden’s Humanity’s Last Breath brings a uniquely punishing vein of sinister heaviness. The quartet describes its sound simply as “evil”… and really, that’s a fair summation. What else can you really call a combination of lumbering doomcore, devilishly atmospheric black metal, and a dash of Meshuggah’s technical groove? Humanity’s Last Breath solidified this mixture with Abyssal, five years after the band’s 2013 self-titled debut, leaving Välde to dig further into the sonic chasm.
Translating to “Empire” in Swedish, the sheer magnitude of this album embodies the cyclopean tower on the album cover. Actually, the artwork sums up the intent of Humanity’s Last Breath nicely: a giant brick filled with disembodied spirits. It'll smash a continent to dust, then suck the souls straight out of its obliterated population. Intro “Dödsdans” (Dance of Death) sets up the album’s pallet: dissonant textures, detuned bottom guitar string abuse, and dynamic percussion. Instrumental cuts like this and the foreboding, expansive title track counterbalance the abject punishment with a palpable, deep atmosphere before “Glutton” and “Earthless” to give the reaction YouTubers something to gawk at.
Välde is the kind of heavy that needs to be experienced to be believed, with each drop more destructive than before. The former’s un-ending chugs deal non-stop blunt force, while the latter counterbalances its chest-caving breakdowns with futuristic guitar effects and chilling ambiance. The disturbing, cinematic music videography also displays how Humanity’s Last Breath approaches brutal music like an immersive horror film. It’s less music for moshing, and more for listening in slack-jawed silence as each musician pushes the boundaries of modern heavy music.
From the barbaric vocals of Filip Danielsson and the controlled-chaos rhythm changes of drummer Klas Blomgren, to the satisfying low-end thud and inventive riffage of guitarists Buster Odeholm and Calle Thomer, it’s great to hear Humanity’s Last Breath evolving their sound. This largely translates through increased melodicism, which appears most overtly during the Gojira-ish chorus that closes out “Spectre.” Though certainly catchy, in no way does the raspy singing lessen the music’s impact. If anything, it prevents overwhelming intensity from overstaying its welcome. The passionate post-rock and doom metal outdo of “Tide” is just as riveting as the riff-a-minute onslaught that leads to it.
Humanity’s Last Breath don’t apologize for their deathcore leaning, which manifests through synchronized double-bass and brown note chugging. On that front alone, a cut like “Sirens" keeps the stank faces coming, but its melodic undercurrent brings an intricacy uncommon for the genre. Indeed, the album’s startling contrasts and sweeping transitions owe a lot to the versatile performances of Odeholm and Thomer. The way “Descent” juggles percussive beatdowns, acrobatic shredding, and hair-raising feedback stabs would be impressive enough, but the song’s orchestral flourishes, and haunting choral singing makes its doom and black metal element every bit as convincing as the technical, bludgeoning violence.
Välde is defined by firing on all cylinders, which “Dehumanize” and “Hadean” exemplify with top-tier musicianship. Danielsson’s monstrous vocalizations offer incredible range, rhythmic cohesion and professionalism that carries over to the instrumentation. Blomgren knows exactly when to gun the throttle and when to leave space, which in turn gives Odeholm and Thomer room to flex multiple facets of their playing. Whether it's low-and-slow deathcore grooves or spellbinding tremolo-picking and blast-beating blizzards, the band uses anything and everything in their quest to stupify the listener with pure, unadulterated malevolence.
It’s not every day a band can evoke Carach Angren's progressive black metal and Black Tongue-ish downtempo in the same breath, but it’s an apt description of “Futility.” Bone-crunching breakdowns not only mix with devilish bombast, but actively synthesize the two elements into an ever-evolving pitch-black tidal wave. Likewise, Humanity’s Last Breath ends Välde with a proper sonic curb stomp. “Vittring” is so heavy that it’s almost frustrating. One does not simply headbang to those hammering snare hits. The full effect of vomitous growls, tectonic chugs, and piercing dissonance is, frankly, ridiculous. Trust that such a statement is a high compliment.
The cleaner, more technical side of heavy music often comes at the cost of viscera, but Välde proves that Humanity’s Last Breath can have their cake and eat it too. This album is crushing, but not generic. It’s melodic but never compromises. It's unpredictable, but not incoherent. It mashes genres naturally, without giving into clichés. Välde is a great addition to the growing sub-subgenre of blackened deathcore… one that any self-respecting metalhead should give a try.