Varials // In Darkness
Released: October 11, 2019
For fans of: Deftones, For The Fallen Dreams, Loathe
Is it good? It’s ten thousand times better than everything else they’ve ever made.
This is one of the most surprising albums of 2019 for me. I haven’t enjoyed beatdown/down tempo bands in a long time and that’s purely what Varials was until now. Nothing against those genres, they’re just not for me, which is why I wrote these guys off years ago. I have to admit though, I was intrigued when they released four singles at the same time. I figured it would be like listening to a short EP that would confirm my bias. But after one listen to “I Suffocate” I knew I had to reconsider everything.
This isn’t even the same band anymore. The level of transformation Varials has gone through on this album is up there with what Black Tongue did on their last release. They’ve dropped all the gimmicky, tough guy, predictable nonsense and have exponentially expanded each member’s role.
This new style can most easily be compared to Deftones. It’s obviously a lot heavier but it evokes the same feelings. The way the instruments are mixed is blurry, like trying to see through heavy mist. The bass contributes a lot to how thick the songs feel and causes the layers to bleed into each other (especially in “Romance”). The lack of definition was a bold choice, especially when so many bands are overproducing their music, and it paid off big time, resulting in a raw, gritty sound perfectly suited for heavy music.
The songs have a lot going on but it’s rare for any one element to stand out or draw attention to itself. The most notable outburst is when Brendan from Counterparts comes in at the end of “South of One”, but other than that, the band makes a deliberate move towards uniformity.
The vocals are the same way. There is very little range in the screams but it hearkens back to the days when bands like For The Fallen Dreams were at the top of their game. I normally talk about how critical diverse vocals are but there’s something hypnotic about how Travis repetitively carries on. I especially like the echoing effect throughout, as if he’s calling out to you in a dream. Although it’s firmly grounded in heaviness, that fleeting, ethereal sensation is what this album is all about.
It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed an album for the reasons that make ‘In Darkness’ so great. It draws heavily on what came before it while being unlike any of its predecessors. The feelings it sparks are illusive but powerful. By applying an old style to a new vision, Varials has created a sound that I need more of.