The way one should approach “Psychedelic Darkness”, the full length album by Psychedelic/ Post metal band Psydonia for the first time, is in one large binge, without distraction, chatter nor interval. You need simply to experience it all in one go. It is a vast, sprawling work, in which every detail, every note and nuance, each rhythm and sound, has been deliberately and carefully placed after much consideration. Even the smallest and most seemingly inconsequential of ideas bear the marks of being kneaded and worked through for weeks in search of their final form. All of which sounds quite strange when you consider that this is largely a brutal and punishing soundtrack, with bone crushing riffs and pounding rhythms, accompanied by harsh, growling vocals.
Drummer Roger Powell’s performance is absolutely explosive – the poly-rhythmic spines he’s created alongside the ingenious liquid motifs forged by jazz bassist Nick Benoit are worth listening to on their own. Then there’s the crushing riffs and towering solos by band founder, and guitarist, Chris Prince.
Ryan Ashmore’s vocals, meanwhile, are no less enthralling, weaving through the songs in truly unique fashion, the perfectly-tempered, immaculately phrased growls always impacting. What we have is an album that pushes and challenges both its creators and its audience.
The overall tones and sonic palette of each song is a journey unto itself, which results in multi-movement pieces where passages linger, breathe, erupt and convulse, or vice versa.
At its best, the album rewards patience with dramatic and epic payoffs, as lush chords and melodies twist and gnarl into crushing doom-laden segments. The interesting thing is, one could essentially focus on any one particular instrument in each track and be rewarded by its execution.
There are only 6 tracks, but there a whole lot of music to consume here. The moment the album kicks off with “Alfred Packer”, Psydonia blur the lines between art, psychedelia, metal, and prog rock with increasing curiosity and skill. This commitment to blazing their own path even allows them to embed jazz structures and progressions into their aesthetic.
“Harrow” is more ominous than even the title suggests. The chugging guitars, rolling basslines and fierce drumming are countered by the anguished harsh vocals. “Nova” starts on a twinkle and a click slowly building into a work of somber beauty and resonating grandeur.
There’s a feeling of carefully controlled complexity on “The Swarm”. It’s a multivalent experience, like sonic cubism, almost as if listeners are hearing several points of view at once. “Crimson Tusk” reveals itself slowly, before suddenly exploding into a commotion. “Obsidian” also begins as a slow burner and reaches a dynamic apex that shifts the song into another mode.
While it’s nearly impossible to accurately describe such a dense album in only a few listens, my feeling is, Psychedelic Darkness contains the forward thinking progressiveness and sonic capabilities of a band confident of their abilities in every sense.
Psydonia’s blueprint is comprised of a focused ferocity and a precise, unyielding aggression that is allowed to meander into evocative moments. Their musicianship and songwriting, as well as their ability to catch listeners off guard is laser sharp.