Dendritic Arbor- Romantic Love

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Thursday, May 21, 2015

Grimoire Records has primarily been focused on releasing noteworthy metal from Maryland and Virginia areas, but occasionally has ventured a little further north to find some killer bands. Last year they introduced me to Pittsburgh’s Wrought Iron, whose debut full length left a strong impression. Now the label has put out another album from a Pittsburgh group in the form of Dendritic Arbor’s Romantic Love, and it may just be one of the most off the wall and terrifying releases they’ve put out yet. It’s sure to take a few times through to make sense of the band’s spastic, unpredictable attack but those with a taste for the grimier underbelly of the metal world will want to take note.

There are elements of black metal, grind, and noise/dark ambient present on Romantic Love but Dendritic Arbor never really falls squarely into either category. If anything, black metal is where they end up closest to in tonality and those with an interest in the genre are likely to find the abrasive, almost suffocating layers of sound to be quite appealing. But this is hardly your average USBM act attempting to capture the older Norwegian sound or the sprawling Cascadian sound, instead opting for constantly changing razor sharp riffs that feel like they’re going to rip out of your speakers and stab you in the throat. This is where the grind element comes in, as like some of the better bands in that genre there’s a lot of sudden shifts in tempo and all-out blasts that hit without warning. Dendritic Arbor is unrelenting in their intensity, and never let the listener get a handle on a particular riff for too long before they switch things up and put things off balance again. In between all of this madness there are some noise/dark ambient interludes contributed by Topon Das of Fuck the Facts, and they’ve been integrated perfectly in with the rest of the music. While they’re far more minimalistic than the rest of Romantic Love, Das’ contributions maintain the same amount of dread and grime that the rest of the album has to offer.

Though the instrumentals may go a long way in creating that unsettling, abrasive feeling, the vocals are what put this album completely over the top. Three of the four band members contribute vocals at various points throughout the recording, and the screaming styles are about as harsh as you can get. Quite frequently they start off as an ear piercing scream that goes into a full on wail, and the intensity level is completely off the charts. At times some of the performance reminds me of Gnaw Their Tongues, as Dendritic Arbor’s members are just as capable at sending chills down your spine with their abrasive screams and howls. It’s worth mentioning that the vocals maintain the same unpredictability as the instrumentals, which is important because if they used the same exact style for the entire album it would lose some of its edge and not be quite as unsettling.

Romantic Love incorporates elements of black metal and grind together in a way that never falls completely into either genre, and its ability to constantly shift gears and keep the listener on edge helps it to stand out quite a bit. It’s a lot to take in all at once, and for quite a few people I think it’s going to take a few times through to start to get a handle on what exactly Dendritic Arbor has put together. But that is what makes it so appealing to me, as there are dense layers of grime and razor sharp edges to explore with each listen. Grimoire’s secured another standout band, and considering this is only the group’s first full length record it seems likely they’ll only continue to push boundaries in the future.

Leave a Reply