Artist: Drift Into Black
Album Title: Patterns Of Light
Label: Independent Release
Date of Release: 28 May 2021
I have taken a long time to put this review together, because I have flip-flopped back and forth many times when trying to order my thoughts about this album. Drift Into Black is not a band that I have heard of before and I’m surprised to learn that it’s more accurately a one-man project, the brainchild of ex-Grey Skies Fallen keyboardist Craig Rossi. I’m even more surprised to learn that this record, ‘Patterns Of Light’, is the fourth release from the musician in as many years – there’s being prolific, and then there’s this. Four albums in four years is impressive in anyone’s language and it’s a bit of a knock to my ego to realise that I’d not come across this project before.
Rossi is responsible for the guitars, keyboards and vocals for Drift Into Black, so I’m going to assume that the drums are synthetic. That’s never a positive thing in my book, but unlike 20 years ago, the end result isn’t a complete and utter disaster. There’s enough of an organic feel to them to not turn the music sour or let the compositions down. Come to think of it, the very fact that this didn’t cross my mind until I dug a little deeper into this album, means that they can’t be that bad at all.
As it happens, the very first thing that hits me when I listen to ‘Patterns Of Light’ is the production. I have heard much worse over the years, but there’s no denying that the music sounds distant, foggy, and lacking in the kind of clarity that you might expect. The net result is that the compositions are robbed somewhat of their power and intensity. If I were to be disingenuous, I’d say that the final product feels a little lukewarm and underwhelming.
I’d also suggest that Drift Into Black lacks a little in the originality stakes too. Listening to ‘Patterns Of Light’, it is not an album that sounds exactly like any other band; it’s more like listening to the musical equivalent of a patchwork quilt. There are influences from many of the death/doom and dark metal stables, everything from My Dying Bride, to Paradise Lost both old and new, to Deinonychus, and many, many others in between. I’d have liked a more defined personal identity if I’m being perfectly honest.
However, let’s park the negativity because it’s not generally how I roll. I like to focus on the positives, so I’m going to do that right now.
In formulating this review, I have listened to ‘Patterns Of Light’ more than I ever expected to. And in that time, it is hard not to be won over by a selection of the eight tracks, because there is a fair smattering of quality material to be heard. It doesn’t always hit the mark, but when it does, there’s no denying that Rossi has talent both as an instrumentalist and a song writer.
Take ‘Among The Beast’ as an immediate example. The song starts of slowly, echoing early Paradise Lost in the melancholy lead guitar lines, whilst the ponderous riffs work well in tandem with a thoroughly edifying low gurgling growl that calls to mind Morbid Angel circa ‘Where The Slime Live’. As the song unfolds, we’re treated to a clean vocal deliver to counterpoint the growls, whilst the keyboards become bolder and more overt, adding texture on top of some insidious melodies. A momentary pause allows for a nice bass solo before the melody is upped further to work alongside the keys and passionate vocals very nicely indeed. Dealing with grief, religion, and revenge as this album does, it would be a stretch to say that there’s anything uplifting about ‘Patterns Of Light’ but this is a thoroughly enjoyable track, if a little maudlin.
‘Maudlin’ is actually a good adjective for large swathes of the album, because Rossi makes no effort to hide the misery and gloom within his lyrics. Mind you, given the dark, doomy nature of the soundscapes he creates, nothing else would really fit, and you’d expect nothing less either. ‘Mother In Peril 9’ is one classic example of Rossi wearing his blackened heart on his sleeve, with it seeping through the microphone to depress everyone listening.
One of my favourite tracks has to be ‘The Burial Gown’, particularly for it’s wonderfully melodic second half, led by some poignant lead guitar lines and clean vocals. Just occasionally, the quality of Rossi’s voice is called into question as he wavers slightly as he strains for a note or two. But his guitar work on this song is bang on and it really acts as the fulcrum within this very strong death/doom track.
Then there are the occasional curveballs, such as ‘Thread Of Hope’, which inject pace and more of a vaguely upbeat, Gothic atmosphere, with surprisingly catchy vocal melodies. And if I’m not hearing things, there’s more than a hint of very early Sentenced in the process. That can never be a bad thing as far as I’m concerned.
All things considered, I have to conclude that ‘Patterns Of Light’ by Drift Into Black is a deceptively enjoyable album, especially if you are inclined towards the more depressing side of extreme metal. It has its flaws but who doesn’t? Heck, I’m the wrong side of 40, overweight, and balding, so I know about flaws! But seriously, if you make peace with those flaws and try to set them aside, you can actually focus on the raft of good attributes within this album. And let’s not forget that this is a solo project, so kudos has to go to Craig Rossi for having the guts to put something like this together. It might not win many awards at year’s end, but I have no qualms in recommending ‘Patterns Of Light’ to anyone who wants to explore some decent melancholy dark/death/doom metal.
The Score of Much Metal: 80%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: