Friday, May 3, 2013

Svartidauði - Flesh Cathedral (2012)

Full Length, Daemon Worship Productions
December 3rd, 2012

Genre: Black Metal
Region: Iceland

With the imminent release of one highly anticipated Icelandic black metal record (Wormlust's 'The Feral Wisdom") now would be a good time to shine the light on another hidden scourge emanating from that isolated and beautiful land. Svartidauði slowly and quietly honed their sound over ten years of selective demos and EPs, all their work thus far culminating with their first full record Flesh Cathedral and it is undoubtedly impressive and harrowing.

I admittedly only just caught on to the enigmatic one-piece Wormlust (for shame, yes) and this is the same for Svartidauði. Both of these bands are dabbling in the more dissonant, eerie sides of black metal via Deathspell Omega, or much like Thantifaxath likes to deal in but theirs is a little more distinct and jarring. Svartidauði have found another avenue to explore and they do it well.

Flesh Cathedral commences with "Sterile Seeds", a song that makes it clear from the outset that Svartidaudi have something unique brewing, crafting a swirling riff that begins as a muffled, crunchy pulse, chimes and chasmic barks incanting around it. Once the transformation through cycling noise is made you get a clearer picture of the beast surrounding and it's humbling to be sure.

These guys have taken great care in their writing, each song progressively gets more complex and spidering outward, mixing atmosphere with unnerving cacophony. Another big transition occurs around six minutes in, a pillar like jagged riff surfaces and will surface again. Infact the selftitled track here also has a similar evil riff that infects the rest of that track. Svartidauði cast a spell of monolithic proportions from the start and I easily fell under their spell.

Very much like Necrite in tone I would argue but with a different focus, which is being sick and warped and dragging in acrid fog, the structures are corroded and fluid: the riffs sound tense and severely malformed, between the blasts of cold tremolo attacks, the vocals coarse and shrouded. The approach is much different. Also the record feels clean in that the instruments don't get muddled but retains that wonderful murk so it's still organic sounding, not sterile. In the wide open tracks they present there's a lot of room for the drummer to be creative and you see great examples of that in the particularly long final track.

Occasionally like in the opener they strategically place sampling or noisey moments, in this case almost sounding like a looped passing train, or the final fifteen seconds of "The Perpetual Nothing" where there's spine tingling metal scraping, like rusted gates swinging and steam valves being released.

By the time you're introduced to Svartidauði in this current incarnation on the first track they've shown that their dedication over all that time has amounted to something worthy of being put along side their peers. Certainly something of a milestone for them I would imagine.

"The Perpetual Nothing" leads with it's dissonant side but devolves momentarily into frantic classic blackened turmoil, blasting and occasional slower fills; showing their cabilties to thrash with the best between their experimentation. This cycle repeats to the point of a percussive cascade, directly into a mesmerizing modulating string skipping passage, bass pounding it's own path, peppered with wails and switch ups on the drum front. I enjoy these moments a shit ton and not only does Svartidaudi's technique employ a decent amount, they manage to further alter it in it's course several times in this song alone to make the groove unending and refreshing.

One of the best moments on the record and it ruptures into a very Deathspell Omega-esque chaotic brawl, in fact several very interesting tumultuous sections close out this song. The tight, technical yet atmospheric approach is hard not to love.

It's impressive at this point already but the Icelandic witchdoctors have another nearly thirty minutes of conjuring to perform, and the selftitled track continues their established path. "Flesh Cathedral" actually feels a little more bassist friendly as the growl is far more present here than previously, particularly at one moment a quarter in where it's rumbling strongly alongside the guitars discord and then in the final fade where its isolated before a tribal build.

At the halfway mark there is this mind rending build, it's completely intoxicating as it fades between background noise, upfront sharp gouging, and slow sustains where the bass is left to ponder over feedback. But the melody is still there, twisted and lingering for a time before going back to that ugly scraping over plunging bass lines one last time.

Out of a tribal drum build from the previous song, a squall erupts in the form of "Psychoactive Sacraments", the eighteen minute leviathan closer. It's longer as it indulges in more slower writhes at various points which remain creative and chilling, but the start is far more in step with DSO again. One of those slower sections comes pretty early though and you get a sense as to how oppressive they will continue to get, in one instance the bassist pulls some Forest-like fret work.

The decay, the suddenness with which it stops and morphs to a blackened blitz — this pattern sucks you under ocassionally breaking back upwards for one of those twangy, strained slow downs. Once or twice like in the first track the silence returns and the riff is muffled for instance in the middle here, though its far more brief, buttressed by aching screams that sometimes waver close to clean territory. A pretty big groove evolves from one of those dirges and leads to a solo on what sounds like a flute to me (probably melded some with a lead guitar, or an effect), soaring above the dissonant rhythm and contrasting well.

Oh and those last few minutes after the collapsing chords where the riff sounds isolated, stuck repeating and pitch shifting as it's wound and unwound, it almost sounds like a twisted reinterpretation of the last few seconds of Pantera's "Floods". Nice and eerie way to end the record.

If you didn't already know I really recommend fans of crawling black metal get on this one. Enormous, complex, maybe a little psychedelic, pretty damn vile and captivating. I myself am ashamed I had not heard of these guys before last year but I'll certainly be watching them eagerly now. In the top twenty of 2012 no doubt and in my top ten, I gotta recommend this for those in love with the twisted and heavy like Deathspell Omega, Necrite, and Nightbringer. Flesh Cathedral is a wicked black metal gem that should not go unnoticed.

So far this is pressed on cds from Daemon Worship Productions but every copy has been sold out for a while which sucks cause I would love to get a copy. Follow these guys on facebook for more info on future pressings and their plans.

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1 comment:

  1. So stoked to see these guys getting the recognition they deserve! I saw them and covered their set at last years Iceland Airwaves, even better live. Flesh Cathedral was among my favorites of 2012, hopefully it doesn't take too long for another release.

    - Chris of SHOM