Despite this being their third album, Playgrounded came out of nowhere for me. That might say more about me than the band’s stature or following, but I have a feeling it’s a bit of both. Band members from both Rotterdam and Greece combine huge Massive Attack style electronic soundscapes with the dark, prog rock of Karnivool or Porcupine Tree to stunning effect.
This is going to sound meaner than it is intended, but when I listen to The death of Death, I can only imagine this is what Sleep Token may sound like if they focused more on creating interesting music rather than accomaniments for the (admittedly fantastic) voice that leads the group. Not that there has to be an either/or of course. Fans of one may well like the other.
One of the themes that plays out through most songs on this album is the use of a central motif that is then explored in different ways. Sometimes there will be variations on a theme, as in Rituals. Elsewhere, such as penultimate track “The road out of the flood” the band build on an idea until there is nothing left, only to return to it, all grown up later on. The various ways Playgrounded tease and delight the listener reveals an expert use of tension in songwriting that typically comes from much more mature bands.
Outside of the songwriting, Playgrounded use a few other tools that add to the aural banquet they have laid out. Let’s start with time. I don’t think there’s a single 4/4 passage in the 6 songs and 40 minute runtime. This playful approach to time keeps the listener guessing and contributes to the dark mysteries of The death of Death.
This only compounds when you add in the clever use of electronics and the haunting vocals of Stavros Markonis. All of these things combine to create a singularly melancholy work that will keep you hooked despite the overwhelming sadness and grieving that pours from every aspect of this album.
The death of Death is Playgrounded’s debut on Pelagic Records, which should mean they will get the push and opportunities they absolutely deserve.
The death of Death will be released on Friday 18th March. You can pre-order it here.