Stark Denial are a black metal group from Mumbai, India consisting of five members, Kunal Gonsalves on vocals, Ruark D’souza on guitar, Paresh Garude on bass, as well as Vineet Nair on drums. Their first full-length album ‘Covenant of Black’ which will be released in late March is the latest work from the band.
The band goes for a very impressive and true to the genre raw black metal sound with ‘Covenant of Black’, something indicated from the intro track, which is just over half a minute of the sound of sirens, storm, & low black metal screeching in the distance giving one the sense of oncoming urgency. After that comes the track Stark Denial, a track title evidently inspired by the band name, which doesn’t beat around the bush and charges straight into a brief evil declaration followed by a classic sinful underground sound clearly inspired by the early 90s black metal scene, setting the tone for the general feel of the album.
Next we have As Life Descends, the song is slower and slightly more melodic in nature but still has that sinister feel thanks to the harsh vocal work and consistently hard hitting drums. This is a track I found myself really interested to see played live. I think it’s safe to say this track had a small glimmer of death metal coming through in certain sections but as all instruments used had such a distinctively black sound would always come back to the very raw black metal style again. Next up we have Dormant I Lie, another slower to start track, and perhaps one of the only songs that would show any indication of the band’s origins in regards to sonic stylings for just a moment at the start and throughout certain solo work sprinkled here and there, but only if you listen with a very keen intent to spot it. This is easily one of my favourite tracks from the album in regards to the way it’s been put together, it successfully takes the song to some very contrasting places but in such a way that you don’t find yourself particularly disoriented just impressed by the diversity.
Then comes Unknown World, kicking off with a low fiendish blending of vocals and instrumentals then progressing back into the hard and fast, ticking all the boxes in regards to the classic black metal style until the song hits the 2 minute mark. This is where they slow down to make way for a spine-chilling period, where a bell is struck alongside the feel of oncoming doom which itself is a fairly short insert. The band then rolls with that vibe for the rest of the song, which I thought was a great touch to the album. Something I can really compliment Stark Denial on is their ability to both sound like a throwback of early black metal but, manage to find a way to make their music sound so unlike other bands who have tried to do the same just to end up sounding like everybody else, it’s really refreshing to see something like this pulled off so well.
Next we have Carnage Angel, a depraved, chaotic tune in all of the best ways, this is one of the longest songs on the album only second to the title track and keeps you invested the entire time. Not straying so far from the classic sound but somehow not coming across as boring or overly repetitive which can be a feat in of itself when you’ve listened to as many black metal albums as I have and find you can come across just that A LOT. The only time in the song they stray from the cliché coarse raw black metal frenzy, is near the end where they drop everything to an almost empty sound where all you can hear is the faint plucking of strings which is soon augmented with a brilliantly terrifying vocal insert which is a whispered screech from which the song starts to build itself back up to the classic anarchy from whence it came.
We now come to Blackened which starts with the sound of howling wolves, soon masterfully blended in with a grim instrumental section leading into the well-established menacing nature that Stark Denial has held onto through the album so far. The song goes on in that style until a gloom-ridden solo that comes along approximately two thirds of the way into the song, setting the track up for an impressively devastating outro.
Finally we reach Covenant of Black, which is ushered in with the sound of what I believe to be burning, with what sounds like vocals made sound as though they’re coming through as a warning on a building or town sound system, though it is so hair-raisingly distorted I could be wrong which to be quite honest just adds to the air of fatal damnation. It was fair to make this track the albums namesake considering how calamitous and well put together the entire track is, this too achieved without a whole lot of tempo or vibe changes to keep people hooked as is often the case.
The last track on the album is a bonus track and in fact is the single Hyllest Til Kulten which was released by the band in 2014. A perfect way to end the formidable album. I highly suggest checking these guys out if you haven’t already, it is so rare you’ll find such quality black metal from anywhere outside of Europe or America, I sincerely hope to see them live at some point in the future.
Covenant Of Black is out on March 25th! Pre-order it HERE!