Shores of Emptiness is the first album by Belgium songwriter and solo artist the Castaway. It was written and produced between 2015 and 2018. This first full-length album explores themes such as solitude, introspection, social alienation, doubts, inner-conflict and lassitude. The previous band the Castaway was in was into heavy metal, so on this debut the artist switches gears to the acoustic guitar. The focus was to not sound like the usual guy with an acoustic guitar but to tap into the moodiness of the ‘90s with influences from Alice in Chains, the Melvins and Soundgarden. In sum, the Castaway’s Bandcamp site states the aim was to “bring some sick, dark and jaded colors into a mainly acoustic guitar driven music.”
“Sickness Woke Up” begins with layered light melodies on the acoustic and then takes a turn to minor chords, which sound chilling, evil and sinister. The off tempo with the acoustic rhythms makes this song chaotic, but good. The feeling I came away with is when I’d watch a horror movie at night, and then not being able to go to sleep. The haunting and moody minor chords carry on in “Fear the Creatures.” The lyrics in the beginning read as if someone was chanting or casting a spell, some get graphic – “Fear the creatures tearing apart the shelter of my head.”
The words to “Procrastinate” addresses that age-old struggle all humans have with wasting time, not giving a damn, and then giving a damn, about our time on earth with whatever day to day schedule we have in front of us. Stylistically, this one reminded me of Alice in Chains, but also some of the darker toned songs of The Doors and The Cult came to mind. “Realm of Remorse” takes a more hushed and steady approach with low, almost whispering drum beats and equally whispering quality on the words. “Mad Sometimes” taps into a more classic alternative rock style, heavy on the acoustic riffs and an arranging of instruments that break up the song, kind of like an old school grunge song. The words to “Strayed” are truly chilling and comparatively I would say that either the Castaway was influenced by Dante’s Inferno, Black Sabbath or they came from the underworld itself – I may not be able to sleep tonight! If you’re into dark, dark lyrics, you’ll love this one.
“Bound to the Night” reads as if Dracula might have wrote some parts – “Because we are bound to the night” and “Just die and vanish with the dawn.” This was the Castaway’s most mellow and lighter sounding tune with a steady drum beat dropped in. One of the shortest songs was “Torn New Day” and I really liked this one for its sparse but imaginative words. I came away from this one thinking – this would fit perfectly on a Mad Max movie soundtrack – there was just something about the words, “Pity is no redeem for disdain” that made me think of the movie series.
“Hammer and Woodlouse” has some rather humorous words – “No I don’t have enough of two middle-fingers for you” and a more traditional poetic approach with lyrical rhyming. This tune gets deep and dark with its heavy use of minor chords, meaty drum beats and additional percussion and guitar solos. “Inexistence” delves into our minds’ mental anguish and that part within ourselves that questions – Who am I? Why don’t I feel like myself anymore? The Castaway succinctly address his own worst enemy and cure “Inexistence invades me, I am the remedy and the disease” and “You are no one else but your own slave / Rise up and blow this hell / But it takes some guts to defeat yourself.”
“Clean my Bones White” picks up the album’s tone just a bit with a faster tempo and catchy guitar licks. And here again, the Castaway gets pretty twisted and dark with his songwriting. I guess when it came time to listen to “Devils Way” I wasn’t surprised by the song’s title, but I was little surprised by the lighter sounding acoustic chords that didn’t sound nearly as sinister and evil as his other songs. With the last song and album title, “Shores of Emptiness” comes a rather metaphysical question – “Can you hear the leaves dying?” and equally, a philosophical proclamation – “Nothing gets as loud as this silence / You ain’t no weight in the great balance.” I thought this song had some shining moments of free form jams, outlaw hillbilly country, anthem power rock and chilling atmospheric tones.
There were definitely some “sick, dark and jaded colors” on Shore of Emptiness.For some listeners, taking in the whole album at one time may be a bit much, as this album dives deep into some intensely dark moments – you may want to listen to some happy love songs by The Carpenters before you go to bed tonight. But for those who are into dark, moody music that addresses the darker sides of apathy, introspection and solitude – the Castaway’s debut casts its light effectively inside the dark corners of the soul.
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