Hailing from California, Draghkar is one of the state’s many up-and-coming death metal outfits. Their newest release, The Endless Howling Abyss, offers bone-crunching instrumentation while taking an introspective look into the struggles of the human mind.
California, and specifically its culturally-flourishing bay area, has been a fiery hot spot in metal history. Starting way back in the early ‘80s with groups like Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth, the Golden State has been an effective launchpad for these big names that we all know and love today. However, the Cali metal scene hasn’t deflated since the now grey-haired fathers left the area; there have been a number of well-known names that have risen from the hotbed. Namely Ghoul and Skeletal Remains, two well-known groups within extreme music as of current, have grown out of California within the past decade-or-two. Furthermore, the region is now seeing an expansive death metal resurgence within a multitude of the state’s metal scenes.
Among many others (links to previous reviews), Mortuous, Phalanx, Ripped to Shreds, Malignant, and Vastum have been stirring up the fetid Californian underground as of recent, all playing live shows and releasing material at neck-breaking speeds. Among these upcoming bands is another fresh death metal group that goes by the name Draghkar. In similar fashion to their contemporaries, the trio has been extremely active within their relative scene, releasing a demo, two splits, and an EP within their mere two years of work together since their formation in 2016. Said EP titled as The Endless Howling Abyss is the release in question, which was unveiled in full on July 27th.
From what I’ve observed from the outside, the greater predominant theme within the Californian death metal scene falls in regard to gore, filth, and brutality. The show flyers being plastered around the internet reveal artwork of rotting carrion, vile beings, and abnormal forms which all emit vibes reminiscent of old-school death metal bands like Autopsy, Death, and Obituary, who used to be gore-fascinated teenagers one time as well. However, Draghkar approaches their album art and lyrical themes with a more introspective form of brutality. Rather than discussing how one can inflict pain to the exterior of the human body, their music pertains to wounds dealt towards the human condition and its relation to the mind.
Don’t get me wrong; that aspect of brutality and ferocity is very much prevalent within Draghkar’s music, it is still death metal after all. However, you really don’t have to look to far to understand the group’s different take on the subgenre. In a simple analysis of the release’s cover art, one can observe an abhorrent form to the likes of a demon or devil figure completely uprooting a blank humanoid creature, who finds himself encased and trapped within a bubble of energy. Such a description is a perfect emulation of the general vibe and feeling of their music. Distortion-heavy guitars, blast beats, and growling vocals uproot the listener who finds himself trapped within a barrage of sonic airwaves for the 20-minute runtime of the EP. Listen to “Swallowed by the Dark” below.
To increase upon this idea, the listener eventually finds themselves identifying with the subject matter at hand, fed to them by the ghastly claw of the demon on the cover. While one can interpret further in regard to a personal dissection of lyrics, The Endless Howling Abyss’ song titles speak for themselves. “Swallowed by the Dark”, “Eternal Disintegration (Of the Body and the Mind)”, and “Fading into Emptiness” all allude to this individual, one no different than you or I, who’s mental condition is impaired or has been rendered useless for many of the acceptable reasons; decay cause by societal pressure, life’s struggles, eternal competition, whatever may it be. I can’t identify with a tale about someone’s eyes being gutted out, but I can definitely identify with the topics above.
On a musical note, The Endless Howling Abyss offers top-notch instrumentation coupled with sonic diversity. The flavour of death metal on this EP is that akin to a claustrophobic-sounding death/doom outfit, except with a lot of emphasis on the death part of the equation. There are various sections of the release that offer these doomy and gloomy introductions or interludes which mix favourably with the brutality of the faster segments. Furthermore, “Fading into Emptiness”, the album’s closing track, features a clean, almost operatic singer, who oozes a tinge of sorrow and despair with his cries. Such an addition couples extremely well with the slower riffs on the track, all adding up to give off a Candlemass-esque vibe which works splendidly.
Simply put, The Eternal Howling Abyss is an exceptional collection of tracks which each offer their own separate flavour while ultimately contributing to a grand commentary about the struggle of the human condition. While brutality for the sake of brutality is great because it travels towards the most radical aspect of metal music, I love a record that has a lot more to offer in terms of lyrical themes; such gives the release a lot more depth. Pick up The Endless Howling Abyss on Bandcamp and catch Draghkar in concert if they are playing near you; they have proven to be one of the better up-and-coming death metal outfits of recent times.