Some bands take a few releases to mature, hone their technical skills, and refine their sound to a point where they sound confident in their music and carve out a niche for themselves. Other bands, like Setentia, nail it on their first attempt. Their debut full-length album (and, in fact, their very first release of any kind) ‘Darkness Transcend’ was released independently earlier this year, and reissued on the reputable Finnish label Blood Music on November 11. Though the band have been compared with Ulcerate, this does not do justice to the breadth of Setentia’s sound, which incorporates elements of progressive metal and black metal to a far greater extent. Beyond that, they have an uncanny knack for suffocating atmosphere, highly technical, brutal death metal, as well as writing songs with enough variety and unexpected surprises to stave off monotony.
On the opening track, droning synthesizers give way to melodic guitar leads soaked in reverb, slowly introducing percussion and heavier sounds. Contorted, twisted riffs saturate the atmosphere, their dissonant shapes carving melody out of the most unlikely materials. The second track draws heavily on Gorguts’ sound, heavy on the dissonance and complex percussion, while their vocalist Jacob’s powerful guttural roar keeps things grounded and heavy. Some songs feature much faster, thrashier sections, while others double down on the brutality. ‘Beyond Myopic Blame’ is one of the heaviest, most intense songs on the album. The two part piece ‘Seeds of Death’, ‘Departure’ and ‘Remembrance’ form the centrepiece of this album. The former song, clocking in at about 9 minutes, is one of the best written on the album. The unsettling, dissonant guitar chords reverberating in the air, the dynamic drumwork directing the band’s frenzied assault. The way the song flows from softer, slower passages to the abrasive, heavier sections feels natural and well-executed, which is impressive considering how easy it would have been for this to sound stitched together.
Closing track ‘The Fruit of Life’ passes 10 minutes in length, and is one of the most melodic on the album. Much of the fretwork seems almost Gothenburg-style melodeath, and the guitar solo at about the half-way point is very impressive – melodic, but quite atmospheric and emotional. The use of tremolo-picked guitar passages in the background in tandem with the faster riffing and heavy percussion has to be one of the most successful executions on any idea on this album. The song gives us one last wailing, melodic guitar solo over before fading out over the fast, tremolo-picked guitar passages from earlier, and the dark, eerie synthesizers that opened the album close it. We return to the darkness out of which this album was spawned.
I was so impressed by this band’s album that I had to reach out to them and see if I could talk to them about it. I wanted to explore some of the themes explored on this album, discuss the band’s early history, influences, as well as what it means to be a death metal band in New Zealand in 2016. Thankfully they were more than happy to talk to me, so read on for the interview!
How did Setentia come about? How did you guys meet and decide to form this band together?
Hugo & Maxwell had wanted to create a band for some time after they had been in a few bands together which never took off the ground. It was around 2009 that they began looking for people to join and soon after met Jasper, whom had expressed interest and so that’s how he came to be in the band. Finding serious committed members was a challenge in the few years after we met him until we found Cameron though an advertisement at the local music shop and jammed with for many years before we were able to lock down our full time bassist Adam. Jag & Jasper had known each other from meeting at local shows in Auckland. After a reshuffle to the lineup in 2014 Jag soon came on board and we’ve had the same line up since. *(Lock it in)*
You’ve just released your first album ‘Darkness Transcend’ on Blood Music, and it’s certainly one of my favourites of this year. What was the writing and recording process like? Are you happy with the reception so far?
Generally our writing process will start with a basic riff idea structure and drum track using ‘guitar pro. We’ll work an idea before building upon different layers and crafting a flow and mood. Most of the songs from ‘Darkness Transcend’ were written over the course of several years and went through many forms before we felt they were finished. The recording process was done by us with Jag being responsible for recording and production of the record. Darkness Transcend was recorded over several sessions between December 2014 and 2015. The reception so far has been amazing! With several new fans from Blood Musics fan base adding Darkness Transcend to their bandcamp collections. We recently had our release show here in Auckland which was really well received also.
How did your signing to Blood Music come about? Has the relationship with them been a good one so far?
We released “Darkness Transcend’ ourselves in March 2016. It was only live for a few days before we were contacted by Blood Music with the proposal of releasing the album through the label. We’re extremely grateful for the advice and mentoring we’ve had from the label since releasing the record. Blood Music has a reputation for quality physical releases and has good eye for detail.
The diversity of the influences, atmospheres and ideas on ‘Darkness Transcend’ really marks it out as a unique album. What is it that influences you guys to write this kind of music?
We basically just tried to create music that we all enjoy playing and listening to.
It’s interesting reading through the lyrics on your album, particularly for ‘Throne of Thorns’, given I just interviewed Départe. The song paints a very grim portrait of mankind, but is also clearly making religious references, without being overtly anti-religious. Is there a Christian undertone to the music, or is it more metaphorical?
There are no intended Christian or anti Christian themes in any of the songs. The lyrics often relate to personal experience but have been left open to interpretation.
Are there any plans for a European tour in the near future? Any chance we’ll get to see you guys play in the UK?
We’re very interested to play anywhere.
Thanks to Setentia for taking the time to respond to my questions. ‘Darkness Transcend’ is available now from Blood Music and on Bandcamp below.