Germany’s Rope Sect made quite an impression on unsuspecting listeners with their 2017 EP Personae Ingratae, which merged elements of deathrock and post punk together into a softer yet haunting sound that got under your skin. It was a departure for Iron Bonehead, a label known more for the most abrasive black and death metal bands out there, but one that made sense as metal fans often find themselves drawn in by the bleak sounds of these genres. After a series of singles over the years, Rope Sect has finally returned with their debut full length The Great Flood which draws upon all their previous experience and delivers mysterious atmosphere and haunting melodies. It’s the type of album that’s likely to take a few times through as it grows on you with each listen, but the effort to do so will reward you.
Where some post punk and deathrock have a very jagged and colder sound, Rope Sect’s material utilizes much warmer textures and draws you in with inviting yet dark melodies that draw you in little by little. It’s an approach that has worked in their favor from the beginning and is amplified throughout The Great Flood, no matter what speed the band chooses to go on any particular song. You’ll find that this album is surprisingly varied across its ten tracks, as rather than falling into one pattern like so many in this genre and then riding it out until the end each one diverges from the other naturally. The opener has an airier guitar lead and driving rhythm section that gives off a moodier rock feel, while the next song “Rope of the Just” injects the chunkier and methodical bass lines that defined post punk throughout the 80s. On some of the longest pieces Rope Sect slows things down to a crawl, allowing the atmosphere to sprawl outwards and create a thick and mysterious sound that makes it feel like you’re peering into complete darkness and struggling to make out the details of what’s around you. Rather than simply relying heavily on templates from Killing Joke or Joy Division like so many others, Rope Sect’s guitar work also has that softer and drearier tonality that brings British alternative rock like Placebo to mind, showcasing that they can cover a bit more ground than their peers. But even with the strength of some of the hooks and infectious nature of the faster songs, the emphasis on slower tempos for a significant amount of The Great Flood does make it drag at times and some of the material needs time to grow rather than having the immediacy these two genres sometimes display.
The vocals are another element where Rope Sect has diverged from some of their influences, as Inmesher has a much softer pitch that hangs over the recording with a haunting and sorrowful tone. It’s an approach that works well no matter what tempo the instrumentals are going, and even with how light the singing is it never gets overpowered by the rest of the band and holds you under its power from beginning to end. While Inmesher alone would have been able to keep the material interesting, Rope Sect has chosen to bring in Mat "Kvohst" McNerney from Hexvessel and Grave Pleasures on “Prison of You” and “Flood Flower” where he takes over the lead role. It’s an interesting decision that helps to break up the material and gives these two songs a very different feel from the others, as McNerney’s pitch is louder and a bit more alternative rock-like, but it meshes well and still allows the material to flow seamlessly. If you were expecting any harsher metal vocals you may be disappointed, as the only appearance is some extremely brief growling at the end of “Hiraeth” that reminds me of the type of growling and screaming that Jaz Coleman would sometimes break into on Killing Joke’s heavier moments.
Three years in Rope Sect has built on the dark and inviting sound they established and pushed it further outwards, incorporating just as much melancholic alternative rock with jagged post punk. Some of the longer tracks do drag slightly and while there are initial hooks this is an album that will need some in-depth listening time to fully unravel, but the effort will be rewarded with material that invites you to revel in its bleakness and decay. It’s exciting to see Rope Sect branch out further and become harder to pin down, and they can only get stronger from here. The Great Flood is available from Iron Bonehead Productions.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to share it with others to help us grow. You can also like and follow us on the social media of your choice with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and support us on Patreon.