Dendritic Arbor- Sentient Village / Obsolescent Garden

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Sunday, January 17, 2016

Dendritic Arbor had a busy 2015, as not only did they release their debut full length Romantic Love in May but they also snuck out a four song EP Sentient Village / Obsolescent Garden two days before the year came to a close. Comprised of four tracks that run a little over twenty one minutes, the group has once again continued their onslaught of black metal and grind while upping the assault to an even crazier level. The overall formula may not have changed drastically between this EP and its predecessor, but Dendritic Arbor has continued to do their best to be as impenetrable as possible and blur the lines between metal styles in a way that makes one hell of an impression.

The grind element in this band’s music comes through not only in their unrelenting blasting, but also in the fluid approach to songwriting that often finds elements changing from one second to the next. But whereas most grind acts keep things brief Dendritic Arbor uses this constantly changing approach over longer periods of time, with the last two tracks coming in at over six minutes in length. In this span of time the instrumentals cross over between genres regularly, with the spastic blasting often giving way to sprawling black metal leads that have an eerier sound sure to send chills down your spine. Somehow these guys were able to find a way to reach an even denser level than on Romantic Love, and though the approach between the two recordings has plenty of similarities I did find that it took a few more listens before Sentient Village / Obsolescent Garden clicked in the same way as its predecessor. There’s a level of precision between the tempo shifts and stop/start changeovers that could even intrigue a few technical death metal fans, as that similar sense of unpredictability and ear shattering volume is present here. Dendritic Arbor has also kept some of the noise/ambient elements from before, using them as an intro and outro this time around. It’s an element that continues to distinguish their material as the breaks go for a minimalist approach but are just as unnerving.

Though the frantic instrumentation and unsettling tonality plays a significant role in giving this EP plenty of impact, what puts it over the edge for me is the vocal performance. The primary style is a high pitched shriek that starts off at an ear piercing level and manages to morph into some of the most distorted and inhuman sounds I’ve heard recently. It’s likely to be one of the parts of Dendritic Arbor’s music that will be an acquired taste for some, as there are pitches that are closer to the freak out insanity of bands like The Locust and that could prove to be a bit much depending on what type of metal your particular tastes lean towards. But the sheer insanity and variation between high and low pitches merged with the hellish atmosphere created by the instrumentals is what has continued to draw me in to this recording, and the longer you listen to it the more nuances to the vocals you’re likely to discover.

Early on this Pittsburgh band may have had a bit more of a black metal leaning, but with Sentient Village / Obsolescent Garden they’ve pushed even further into different territory that encompasses a little bit of everything from the extreme side of metal. The sheer unpredictability and emphasis on never lingering on a single element for too long may make it take some time to fully get a feel for and perhaps even turn some people off entirely, but those whose ears perk up any time familiar elements are taken in new and weird directions will want to check this one out. I’m still curious to see where the sweet spot between gritty, spine chilling atmosphere and technical avant-garde insanity is though, as there seems to be a bit more room left for Dendritic Arbor left to explore both of these elements.

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