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It's generally not a good sign when you can't pronounce a band's name for a good amount of time even after buying the album. However, with a name like "Thantifaxath" it's hard to skip past this band when browsing around. Names of demons and like are found in very lo-fi underground black metal bands, so it's initially what I embraced for when giving the album the first spin. To this day, after almost a year, this is still an album to be marveled at.
Opening up, the star track of the album, "The Bright White Nothing At the End of the Tunnel" pulsates a low rumble and an organ's keys being pressed seemingly all at once. The dissonance is an initiation of sorts, going on for twenty seconds before the first riff. Four repeats, and the other instruments all come in. The subtle introduced baseline and drumming morphs into a complex flurry and the initiation ends. You are now reaching the bright white nothing at the end of the tunnel.
Monstrous guitar riffs are this album's feature. As opposed to the general tremolo picked style of riffing that black metal has inherited, Thantifaxath go for dozen or more note riffs and like to play in a very classical music structure, generally using lots of different time signatures and changing every four measures. As "same-y" as the changing every four repeats is, it works so well on this album it's a key point to the perfection of it. There's generally enough change in the vocals and complexion in the drums for it to fit nicely in what is generally eight measures. Vocals, from start to finish are screamed very loudly with more than enough reverb. Little effects are used, which is a nice step away from computer ridden black metal. All instruments are organic, and give a nice clean sound.
Start to finish, this album experiments with all different ideas in the black metal realm, with songs that have ambient, intros, blasts, slow sections, and every other thing that's found in the realm of extreme metal. The most amazing thing though, is the use of things That are much more avant-garde. Never have I heard music quite in the realm of what is done in this album, and it's probably what made it earn the place in my heart it has.
All of the tracks are stand-out tracks, and for me it changes when it comes to what tracks I enjoy the most. This album has to be planted in rotation to grow, because I remember upon first listen I felt disappointed. There's truly something for everyone here. Slow haunting tracks like "Lost in the Static Between Worlds" and loud, thunderous speed driven tracks like "Panic Becomes Despair". It took awhile to finally come to the perfect album, but there is no more deserving album than this.
Prefaced with a noisy cluster of tones, Sacred White Noise greets the listener with an unbelievably striking 24-note melody that serves as an excellent introduction to the album’s queasy sound. This melody, although rigid, is far too unforgettable to be called angular. The mesmerizing main theme in “The Bright White Nothing at the End of the Tunnel” actually has three measures in 6/8 time followed by one in 3/4. Don’t worry though, even if you can barely count, every last note will be branded into your psyche. Many of the album’s riffs have a similar flavor to this, memorable despite the uncommon ways they divide up the measures before pummeling you with entrancing tremolo picking.
As a whole, Sacred White Noise successfully straddles the line between being weirdly progressive and traditionally black metal. Thantifaxath’s approach is harsh (especially the maniacal vocals), yet they maintain a strong balance by never delving into technical exercises, pure angularity, or dissonance worship. This puts the band in the same general family as later-era Enslaved, but in a dark corner of the musical map somewhere in the wide gulf between Dodecahedron and “The ConstruKction of Light” era King Crimson (and yes this means there is “bass you can hear” and it’s pure bliss)
Sacred White Noise has an incredible sense of flow. The song structures are engaging and even the segues from one song to another reveal that Thantifaxath clearly sees the big picture. Sacred White Noise is a proper album, not merely a collection of songs. Another interesting facet of the band is how much of an elegant sense of horror they have, think The Axis of Perdition but more implicit. Precise pick slides, the tinny childlike vocals on “The Bright White Nothing…,” the pale choir transition from “Where I End…” to “Gasping in Darkness,” and the mournful gypsy-esque violins - all enough to make your skin crawl. The element of fear also really helps keep the album from coming across as too sleek, despite how heavily produced it is.
While the band has a fairly heavy reliance on time signature or rhythmic shifts as the pillars of song structures, everything always comes together in a fantastic, and unexpected, way. This is because the band really overcomes metal’s tendency to slack off on the melody in favor of rhythmic (or arrhythmic) chugging. Hell, even the instrumental sections share this work ethic, having worthwhile and nuanced melodies that tie into the atmosphere without merely regurgitating the same notes. Despite the band’s weirder riffs and prog tendencies, Thantifaxath never loses sight of the overall mood and always clutches onto a powerful atmosphere. Sacred White Noise is more refreshing than sticking your head out of the window into a blizzard, listen to it. Now.
Originally written for Contaminated Tones.
I had heard a tune off this album some weeks ago, probably via a friend's YouTube link, but for whatever reason the Thantifaxath debut slipped my mind. A mistake, as it turns out, because I've now listened through this a dozen times, fallen completely in love with it and can't stop subjecting myself to its sense of eloquent opacity. What these hooded, enigmatic Canadian mystics have essentially pulled off is a rather original spin on what some might dub a form of 'psychedelic' black metal; only unlike the trippy artists this tag has previously been foisted upon, like Finnish spacemen Oranssi Pazuzu, there is a more cinematic sense of tension, release and wonder to these tracks which is simply unforgettable.
It's black metal, sure, but with a range of strings and ambient accoutrements that so delicately balance off the harsher vocals and riffing. We're not talking aimless navel-gazing, but purposeful, sweeping anthems for the sodden, captured in simplistic but effective chord patterns that have the texture of some city corridor after a rain has subsided. Rhythm guitars don't encompass techniques that we're unaccustomed to, per se, but the selection of notes here has an uncanny knack for infecting the mind even without the catchiest of progressions. No, there is something ornately mechanistic about the album that really registered a mood...a nostalgia for a life I've never lived. Unique urban bewitchment that I simply don't encounter often on record in this medium. At points it felt like Voivod and later Enslaved jamming out some score for a formerly silent film 80 years after the fact. Dissonance and drama shifting about a black and white stage in the form of human thespians, and yet such specific aesthetic definition can't really even begin to cover this...
All manner of haunted, unexpected melodies are harbored over these six tracks and 44 minutes, but what really drives them deeper is just how fluently they are mixed against the raucous bark of the front man. The bass lines are strong, viscous and flexible to each rhythmic configuration while not mocking the listener by boringly cloning the guitar patterns. Strings and orchestration are very often understated, simple supports for the guitars which cast a theatrical shadow, the sense once is alone in some cinema, but for the ghosts running the projector. Tremolo picked harmonies are beautiful, often lighter than air, at other times droning and depressive. The drums are pretty evenly delivered, with some force to the snares and a solid kick tone, but to be honest they do somewhat dissolve against everything else happening, not for lack of volume, just lack of brightness. Further embellishments, like the tonal chants that inaugurate "Gasping in Darkness", or the ringing, spacious guitars set against the shrill strings of "Eternal Falling", are just breathtaking.
There is no other way I can state it.
Sacred White Noise indeed, somewhat shy of perfection, and I'm a little worn out on this sort of cover image (though it does fit the songwriting). That said, this is easily among the most intriguing experiences I've had with metal in 2014, or any music, for that matter. I feel shameful giving my Canadian neighbors any more credit than I already have, but without John Candy and Dan Akroyd to vent my jealous frustration upon them, I concede that this is extremely goddamn awesome. At least this time it's not from Quebec, right? The wealth is spread. Resonant, wonderful music. Nightmares and lightmares. Thantifaxath joins Hail Spirit Noir, Spectral Lore and Funereal Presence at the top of my curiosity fulfillment shortlist as far as recent black metal.