Formless Devotion is a black metal band hailing from South Africa that plays the dissonant, ‘orthodox’ variety of black metal that has been on the rise in the past decade or so, in the lines of bands such as Nightbringer, Abigor, Ascension, and Acherontas, among others. Thematically, they delve into Left Hand Path-related occult, especially on the objective of developing the self to become more than the ubermensch, to become a God by death and rebirth of your spiritual self, through the Path of the Dragon that coils the Universe.
‘Sparks of Separation’ is the band’s debut album released under the label Cyclopean Eye Productions. The album is quite short, lasting for about 33 minutes, and is engaging in the ritualistic sense, in that the ebb and flow of aggression and meditative condition is captivating. The album starts off with “Aeonik Devotion”, with the both dissonant and melodic riffing studded with frequent, emphatic blast beat sections and guitar solos. “Resonance” almost goes into a death/industrial route encompassed by the stale, ambient mist around it, acting as an interlude between the previous and the next track. “Prana of the Drakon” ventures back into the grimness of orthodox black metal, with melodic tremolo riffs laid over fast and slow tempo sections.
“Phosfire” is a short track/interlude that starts off with calm, dissonant strumming and expands into short but monstrous borderline-crescendo sounding tremolos, before dying down the way it rose. “Illuminate my Temple” (I’m assuming the temple is a reference to the ‘Temple of Ascending Flame’) begins abruptly, and is not really cohesive with the interlude before it, but gets interesting soon enough, when the growls and thumping drumming kicks in. The scales are interesting and the momentum at the end of the track is strong. “Tunnels” is another of the short, unnerving, dark ambient tracks that attempts to sew the adjacent long tracks together. The final, and the longest, track on the album, “Sparks of Separation”, is also my favourite track on the record. A slow-tempo riff structure is maintained over varying drum patterns, and gets even more intense as the album treads towards its end.
As a debut, ‘Sparks of Separation’ comes out to be a very pleasing album for fans of orthodox black metal with occult themes, with engrossing riffs, organic production (especially the drums) and eerie ambience. The ambient sections are mesmerizing by themselves, but I was not completely happy with its usage between the black metal tracks. I would have liked it more if these were full-length tracks and not spread throughout the album so as to not hinder the flow of the album. Other than this small hiccup, it was a short albeit enjoyable album and I’ll be looking forward to more from the band.