August 8, 2020

Mesarthim - The Degenerate Era

By Calen Henry. The meta is extremely consistent for Mesarthim albums. A new one drops with no warning, giving no information, with a title referencing an esoteric cosmic concept. It always musically iterates on the last album but remains extremely divisive in the metal community and it always gets a nice dynamic master.
By Calen Henry.


The meta is extremely consistent for Mesarthim albums. A new one drops with no warning, giving no information, with a title referencing an esoteric cosmic concept. It always musically iterates on the last album but remains extremely divisive in the metal community and it always gets a nice dynamic master. The Degenerate Era is no different. It's the band's space trance metal at its finest and this time the cosmic concept refers to the cosmic era after the current one, when protons will decay leaving nothing but black holes, presumably what is shown in the album art.

Despite being the opener, the three part "Laniakea" is the album's centerpiece. The title refers to the Laniakea supercluster of galaxies, of which the Milky Way is part. The movements refer to the Great Attractor, the central gravitational point in the supercluster, the Zone of Avoidance, the portion of the cluster that is obscured from view from earth, and Dark Energy that is hypothesized to ultimately tear apart the Laniakea supercluster.

Underneath these cosmic trappings The Degenerate Era continues the shift towards more epic lead-guitar driven songs that started on Ghost Condensate while also harkening back to the more symphonic sound of .- -​.​.​. .​.​. . -. -​.​-​. .(Absence). Track length also splits the difference between those two albums with one 14 minute suite and four tracks ranging in length from four to almost nine minutes. Though the shift and references back through the band's catalog are almost seamless, there are a few transitions on The Degenerate Era that seem to lean to far on stop time, with just a fraction of a second too much space before the next passage begins, something I didn't hear on any prior releases. It can't hold back the album's epic heights, though, with great riffs and leads and the return of pick slides giving it a weird, but great, space punk edge.

Though it's impossible to discern the actual lyrics for a Mesarthim album, there's clearly a cohesive concept. From the album title through the "Laniakea" suite to the album closer "618" (a reference to one of the largest known supermassive black holes) complete with a Morse code message spelling out "Planet Nine Located", there are mysteries yet to discover in The Degenerate Era and the dynamic master (DR 12) makes repeated listens a joy.

August 7, 2020

Vassafor - To The Death

By Bryan Camphire. To the Death is Vassafor's grand statement to glorify Satan and all that is evil through music. The album - the band's third studio recording - is a high watermark in uncompromising black metal being released today.
By Bryan Camphire.


To the Death is Vassafor's grand statement to glorify Satan and all that is evil through music. The album - the band's third studio recording - is a high watermark in uncompromising black metal being released today. You'd be hard pressed to find music that sounds this aggressively malignant produced by guitar, bass, drums and voice.

Vassafor achieves this apex of malevolence by a raw, loose-limbed performance that is sharp, forceful and urgent. The live sound they have captured spews forth at a rolling boil, yet still contains ample nuance beneath the surface. The riffs knock the listener into a trance-like stupor and then they just keep coming. More than half the tracks clock in at close to or well past ten minutes, altogether amounting to over an hour of extreme relentlessness.

By some sleight of hand and a lot of attention to detail, every time the listener is lulled into thinking they know what to expect, Vassafor break out with some strange secret ingredient that keeps each song in a perpetual state of transformation. To the Death unfurls itself like a powerful explosion belching flames aimed the heavens: a colossal spectacle of blasphemy.

The title track comes first, and it's a definite highlight. Three minutes of dirge at the beginning make way for some truly bizarre guitar harmonics that bludgeon the listener into submission just as the blasting begins and the tempo takes off. It's a raucous gallop from there, chock full of wild twists and turns along the way. Here's a demonic fast-picked arpeggio, there a stomach churning dive bomb, next without warning come some witchy cackling chants. Hard panned wraith-like whispers whirl across the sound field to dizzying effect. Finally, at eleven of its twelve minutes, the track climaxes in seemingly the weirdest way possible: with a bass solo. This writhing busy twisted bass passage somehow sounds like the song's very entrails are unspooling into your lap, all noxious and inky black.

Raise the volume and you begin to notice all sorts of hidden strangeness. Track three, "Eyrie" - the title of which may refer to the nest of a bird of prey - features a melting solo thirty seconds in that smears two sections together like a space-time rip. This dimensional bleed-through motif returns six and a half minutes into the song, once again smudging your perception yet sticking with you like so much shrapnel after a blast. At eight and a half minutes, monastic chants creep in low and slow in the mix and last less than ten seconds, like phantoms stealing their way through your subconsciousness. Did they ever really exit anywhere, or have they been sneaking in and out all along? Turn it up and try to find them again.

Vassafor's lead songwriter, VK, is a noteworthy sound engineer, who's worked with heaps of underground bands of the darkest caliber. This skill set and experience imbues Vassafor's sound world with its own distinct atmosphere, enveloping the listener in a bewildering shroud of hate. To the Death charts a course deep into the darkest realms of black metal, one with plenty of left turns in its gnarled twisted paths.

July 17, 2020

Khthoniik Cerviiks - Æequiizoiikum

By Bryan Camphire. The music of Khthoniik Cerviiks looms large amidst a rich and storied history of underground German bands who make uncompromising extreme metal. Æequiizoiikum, their sophomore full length released through the venerable Iron Bonehead Productions, is the fullest realization of this band's unique sound to date.
By Bryan Camphire.


The music of Khthoniik Cerviiks looms large amidst a rich and storied history of underground German bands who make uncompromising extreme metal. Æequiizoiikum, their sophomore full length released through the venerable Iron Bonehead Productions, is the fullest realization of this band's unique sound to date. Khthoniik Cerviiks is a band whose name, music and very essence is likely to cause anything but indifference. The one word that newcomers and long time fanatical supporters can likely agree upon to describe their sound is: unorthodox.

Listening to Æequiizoiikum, it's clear how well-defined the band's style has developed beyond any easy comparisons. There is a loose-limbed feeling to this set of music that separates it from cleaner overworked releases. The heat that this live sounding performance brings is palpable and inspiring with a tremendous sense of urgency. Æequiizoiikum conjures up old school blackened death metal in all its daring full frontal attack, dripping with atmosphere and menace. Among the record's most striking achievements is the fact that the band manages to create such heaviness that is both instantly recognizable and still profoundly strange.

More than ever in their seven year history, Khthoniik Cerviiks refines the interplay between the berserk and the calculated on this record. Meticulously composed intricate song structures are constantly threatening to splinter into a caterwauling spiraling abyss. Æequiizoiikum, all the songs all at once are both overwhelmingly intense and infinitely subtle.

Dystopic quasi-robotic voices welcome us to hell at the beginning and release us into nothingness at the record's end. Soaring leads in the guitar's upper registers abound throughout the set; in fact, I'm given to think that the band may even be playing in standard tuning, which is quite an unusual approach in music that's this extreme. The churning riff that begins the fifth track, "Para-Dog-Son - Demagoron", reminds me of the late-great Howls of Ebb, with whom Khthoniik Cerviiks released a split in 2017. The three bars of blistering bass solo twelve seconds into track two, "Odyssey 3000", ramp up the momentum for the onslaught that is to come. The backing vocals four minutes and twenty seconds into track three, "Æequiizoiikum - Mothraiik Rites" - howling about swallowing the truth - harken a majestic and powerful climax.

According to the band, "the album’s title means age or era of sameness. It refers to a dystopian setting that is characterized by dehumanization and individual instability as indoctrinated by a technocratic, quasi robotic, ruling class." In the midst of this barren desolate hellscape, in this era of indoctrinated sameness that we call reality, with Æequiizoiikum, Khthoniik Cerviiks offer up delicious refreshment.