Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Witchrist - The Grand Tormentor (2012)

Full Length, Osmose Productions
June 4th, 2012

Genre: Death Metal
Region: New Zealand

This is a record I've been patiently anticipating. The perfect record for post #500. Witchrist are probably at the top of the pile of newer-old school death metal acts alongside Antediluvian, Ignivomous and Mitochondrion and it was Beheaded Ouroboros that solidified that spot. Now with their second full length there can be no doubt that they have a tightening grip on that position.

The Grand Tormentor is oppressive. It is surrounded in a grainy, pitch black shroud of production to achieve this. Songs of untold hideous realms make up this 50 minute chilling trek into the clouded pits of horror that is Witchrist's lair. It is a record that summons a war lust draped in terrifying and cold darkness.

Opening with far off whines and ghostly cathedral bells the first monolithic track "Into the Arms of Yama " staggers forward heavily with an aberrant grace that builds at a crawl. It's doomy and foreboding until the scratchy tremolo riffs emerge to grasp at the acrid atmosphere, bringing the distorted death riffs into a blackened caress.

From this track onward it is just a torrent of scalding, primitive death metal that plows straight to the depths of disgust and vitriol. All the greatness of their previous record is ratcheted up ten-fold here. The lyrics centered on old eastern gods and goddesses invoked during battle and defiled by each other, frightening serpents bringing destruction, war, etc. The jagged, muddy, painful riffs peppered with brief and chaotic whammy solos, the waves of putrid roars, the dirty flurry of drums, the rough bass growls — it's all amplified and tailored brilliantly.

While this is a murky sounding record everything is pretty damn clear (which might be a negative for some) and nothing gets too lost in the chaos outside of the bass. The riffs spiral and churn above everything, illuminating the unbearable darkness with an unrestrained, head-splitting tone and creative serpentine structures. "Meditation For Sacrifice" contains some truly wicked riffs from the opening undulating tremolos to the crushing slow chords so heavy they breath malice that they are followed by; the combination of both later is tremendous. Near the end it gradually slows again with some spiking pinched harmonics which I fucking love when they're used sparingly and well.

The songs vary quite a lot in terms of length. On shorter ones like "Wasteland of Thataka" or "Exile" there's some deliciously built, raw and aggressive riffs as there are on "Cast Into Fire" — a track that burns like molten lead on soft flesh. Regardless of the length of the tracks here they all feel deliberate, well paced, and are examples of excellent writing. Tracks like "The Tomb" are incredibly simple and have all the same elements of the previous ones while managing to stand out with a fine use of hammer-ons, a few chunky grinds, and a writhing, filthy solo.

"Beyond Darkness And Death" (which isn't listed on the tracklists I've seen online) is steeped with feedback as the militaristic drum patterns rise, pounding relentlessly in the beginning and with the riffs following this example. They turn to a thrashy pitch suddenly before again hitting twisted and violent spires of tremolos, and again crawl to a halt near the end ushering in a hellish doom tone.

All the way through The Grand Tormentor I never found myself losing interest. It's a record that catches you effortlessly despite it's deceptively simple, orthodox style. "Funeral Lotus" is the final track and second monolith on the record  (almost reaching 10 minutes) closing it off perfectly. Shaking with a string of goliath drawn-out powerchords and hammer-ons with slow clash of cymbals and vile utterances to flank them, the dragging pace is kept even once the slice of the tremolo section breaks in. These moments trade off a few times during the course of the song but never lose their force. Eventually everything settles on the excruciating pace found in the first moments, trudging to the end while a cycling noise builds — the final moments are opened up to chanted "auns", creaking silence and (as in the opener) faint clangs of church bells.

There's something to be said about an album in a very saturated, beat-to-death genre that is almost an hour long, entirely memorable and yet feels like it has flown by once you've reached the end. I was skeptical as to whether Witchrist would be able to follow up (let alone top) their last record but my skepticism has been obliterated here. It's clear that this record builds carefully on their solid foundation set in Beheaded Ouroboros and shapes it into something even more perverted and brooding.

You should get this. No questions, just go out and buy this fucker. One of the top death metal albums this year next to the new Ignivomous, Wrathprayer, Pseudogod, etc. Head over to Osmose Productions to grab it on either vinyl or cd. Both come with more wonderful and disturbing art from Alexander Brown.

This is a vinyl rip.

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