Artist: Humanity’s Last Breath
When Humanity’s Last Breath dropped their first full length record in more than their fair share of years with Abyssal, the heavy music community let out a collective gasp of “thall” as the band’s nigh unmistakable crushing heaviness once more swept the world over. What was doubly shocking? When Humanity’s Last Breath—the same band that took the better part of a decade to follow their debut record—announced Välde in the closing months of 2020, giving listeners across the globe a near-hour of immolating aggression in a fraction of the time that spanned the interim between their prior two releases. But would it feel rushed? Would it just be Abyssal 2.0? Just beyond the fringe of excitement at the forefront of everyone’s minds was—at least where I’m concerned—a sound helping of doubt.
In mere minutes, Välde crushed any spec of doubt I once had. Välde—or “Empire” in Swedish—is exactly as it sounds; sprawling, dense and uncompromising in its dominion over the listener’s ears and mind. Combining raw, no-holds-barred aggression with a renewed focus on atmosphere, Humanity’s Last Breath’s third studio record is a monster of marvelous ethereality meeting in a head-on collision with crushing, remorseless heaviness—giving listeners an introspective journey through the band’s drearier and atmospheric side.
Välde is a voracious release that stops at nothing to pulverize the listener by creating a staunch juxtaposition between jarring, spastic dissonance and brooding, ten-ton ambience. From the onset of “Dödsdans,” the band use lacerating blast beats and a snappy, sharp snare drum to cut through a deep, groovy bass and skullcrushing guitar. “Hadean,” as well as the anthemic title track see this juxtaposition in action, as does “Earthless,” an insatiable beast of a track that sees the band create some of its most looming moments yet, mere seconds after peeling away entire meters of the listener’s skin with frenzied fretwork and precise, pummeling percussion. Other songs—“Glutton,” and the mammoth “Sirens”—see Humanity’s Last Breath focusing on the dreary, unshakable march into the sonic void. These cuts are heavily blackened slabs of raw meat that still take the time to lend the listener some groovy breakdowns and bouncy drumming, but not without first creating soaring, intricate soundscapes of carefully crafted, spacious atmosphere. That same, soaring and stellar atmosphere is that which is brought crashing down upon the listener’s head when songs like “Vïttring” kick in, sending the listener’s whole spine shooting out from their ass. Back and forth, Humanity’s Last Breath oscillate beautifully between the two relative extremes, with several moments throughout Välde feeling like they could be heard as the climactic soundtrack to a Lord of the Rings or Hans Zimmer film. In short, from a band who have only ever made records that are, in every way, massive, Välde is their most gargantuan record yet. Every song leaves a greater impression on the listener than the last, and the instrumentation—and careful production—plays no small role in that.
Where Humanity’s Last Breath have outdone themselves on creating a record that is instrumentally massive, the same can be said for the band’s vocal element. Where much of the low, burly growls and raw mid-range shouts that made Abyssal and Humanity’s Last Breath hit so hard are largely untouched, songs like “Sirens,” “Earthless” and “Hadean” see the band creating vocal segments that are catchy—where “Earthless” is concerned—or regarding the other aforementioned, eerie and sinister. Aside from a select few segments where Humanity’s Last Breath incorporate goosebump-inducing singing into a framework of dense, devastating metallic aggression, not much has truly changed when it comes to the group’s approach towards delivering ferocious and grisly displays of vocal depravity—which is fine. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it—and in a record which demands an immense, uncompromising demonstration of low, gut-busting vocal intensity with lyrics and crushing cadence to match, Humanity’s Last Breath do just fine by keeping on with what they’re known for.
In short, Välde sounds like what I imagine drowning in molten tar feels like. Acrid, incinerating and suffocating from the inside out and outside in, Humanity’s Last Breath and Välde are the very definition of bleak in the most brutalizing and taxing way possible. Each song weighs on the listener like a ton of bricks, making this what should be their most dense—but what is simultaneously their most accessible—record to date. When it comes time, rip Välde open and jump in—just know that it won’t be so easy to drag yourself out.
For Fans Of: Reflections, Primitive Man, Black Tongue, Vildjharta
By: Connor Welsh