Writing long dark death metal songs of the style Condemner do on their demo is no easy feat. As a general rule, the longer the song, the harder it becomes to retain its context and initial premise, doubly so for a band like this. Like Blaspherian, like Incantation before them, the death metal of Condemner lacks a tonal center and is based on floating, chromatic scale interrelationships. Condemner purposely eliminate the great aid of contrast, draining their music of much flavor, and so operate over a far more restricted field of notes.
One might want to know at this stage why the twelve notes of a chromatic scale would necessarily imply a culling of said field of notes; it seems to me that notes – and eventually the music itself that they make – stand out as a result of the spaces and the naturally-occurring consonance between them. The modes of the natural scale hold this consonance so appealing to our ears, but death metal’s reason to be rebels against this same harmony; the genre conspires to upend that equitable foundation in creating a melody all its own.
And yet Condemner‘s style is even less pliant than most death metal. Classic bands like Morbid Angel and Immolation would insert conventional hooks in their songs amid the dissonant raging. Based around minor scale variants and integrated with groove, these would help the listenability quotient of their music. The Incantation school of death metal, however, is far more uncompromising, Condemner being stricter adherents than most. If you’re with me till here, it becomes easy to picture why this isn’t a tenable style in the genre.
Luckily, Condemner circumvent the “anything goes” syndrome plaguing clone bands; in the way they construct these wide swathes of dissonance, in the simple logic between adjacent patches of this dissonance, in the manner in which they circle back to ambiguously floating tonics, in the intelligent application of slower segments, but, ultimately, in how they do all of this while retaining a genuinely dark and unwelcome atmosphere.