Combining black metal and post metal, but delivering their own unique sound, Underdark will release their sophomore album, ‘Managed Decline’ through Church Road Records on the 24th of November 2023.
Telling a deep story over three generations, Managed Decline is about the degradation experienced by the residents of a post-industrial town in the Midlands. While many may not have lived through the Thatcherite neoliberalism era, the effects are still felt today.
This is what Underdark explores on this album through the medium of blackened post-metal, and it might very well be the best album of the year. It’s not hyperbole to describe this album as a work of art. To describe this album as one of the most emotionally affecting and intensely creative releases heard in some time.
Where even a sombre and short piece of melody, the intro of The Past We Inherit, The Future We Build (28th February 1972), can have a tumultuous effect on the mind. It demands you listen on, even if you know it might take a serious toll.
A toll felt with the expansive and extreme darkness that flows from Managed Decline I (1st April 1988). Here, Underdark express their anger through a combination of bleak doomy tones, fatalistic fury, and despondent melody. At nearly ten minutes long, Underdark set out this record’s intentions immediately and most people will find themselves all in on it.
Few bands would be capable of even matching the previous track’s brilliance, but Underdark are on mighty fine form here and are only getting started. Bringing forth gorgeous melodies and feral black metal in a cacophony of heavy pandemonium. There’s a desperation here, which matches the hopeless that comes from there being absolutely nothing you can do to change your personal situation.
1997 was the year of ‘hope’ as a change in UK government early on suggested life would be better for everyone. It seems as though Underdark have tried to reflect that with Matrimony (27th December 1997), as it has a much more triumphant feel. Its soul might be blackened, but it is a robust example of how this is music that can lift the spirit rather than dampen it. Albeit, portrayed in a ferociously harsh and heavy way. It is Underdark after all, and here they take the listener on a near eight-minute sonic journey that shows how deep their musical palette is.
Take a breath, it’s needed, but be prepared for tears as Raised For A World That No Longer Exists brings forth a flood of emotions. The breathtaking melody makes this so much more than just an ‘intermission’, it’s simply beautiful and just another example of what makes Underdark so very special.
Fast and frenetic, dark, and dominating, brutal and brash, all with layers of technical detail and intensity, it’s Enterprise (1st November 2004) and it’s dense and savage stuff from Underdark. A monumental offering that sees them exude an inordinate amount of energy. The track slowly evolving over time, delivering an increasing erratic style that is simply stunning. It is an outstanding piece of music, but that should come as no surprise at this stage of the album.
In fact, there’s no doubt that very few people will want this to end, but all great things must and Underdark close out this album of the year contender with arguably the best track of all. Although that statement could apply to every single piece of music here.
Managed Decline II (2nd November 2004) is more post-orientated, more furious sounding, more melodic, more emotionally wrought, and more epic than anything else. Yet, it’s the sum of everything experienced so far and the soundtrack to a story that many people will be able to relate to, even if it wasn’t their exact experience. Underdark have encapsulated the ups and downs, and highs and lows of lives lived during a time of near-constant darkness. It is simply one of the best things heard all year and it needs to be heard by everyone.
Underdark – Managed Decline Track Listing:
1. The Past We Inherit, The Future We Build (28th February 1972)
2. Managed Decline I (1st April 1988)
3. Employment (16th June 1993)
4. Matrimony (27th December 1997)
5. Raised For A World That No Longer Exists
6. Enterprise (1st November 2004)
7. Managed Decline II (2nd November 2004)
Underdark - Managed Decline (Church Road Records)
The Final Score - 10/10