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For those metal musicians who want to disguise themselves for whatever reason and completely conceal their identities, turning into some kind of hooded menaces seems to be a necessity, even something mandatory. Unfortunately that’s where the lame factor is unlikely to be avoided because of the gigantic success that has been made recently by the Swedish heavy/doom band Ghost, so it’s almost as if there’s no alternative for those guys but to be perceived as mere copycats (regardless of who came up with the idea first). Maybe even something worse than copycats on second thought, considering how cliche, obvious and predictable has become to play extreme metal and choose the path of invisibleness by wearing a hood and a cloak, as there are more and more young black metallers doing that same thing. Moreover, to name your band after some of the demons of the Order of The Qlippoth is also pretty much of a commonplace in the contemporary extreme metal and when those two join forces (the hard pronouncing name and that overused dressing style) one of the worst presentation packages the band can possibly obtain reaches the surface.
In spite of all this and regardless of Thantifaxath’s suitableness to fit the description from the opening paragraph perfectly, none of the things said should be applied to them and taken to their disadvantage for they are just an amazing, breathtaking and otherworldly band in every possible sense of the word. I would even go so far to claim they give entirely new meaning to these stereotypes as their music truly resonates like the omnipresent incarnation of evilness that is of cosmic origin, which helps perceiving these three walking black robes like something that’s not worn by men but by some strange entities of dematerialised energy that just so appear to have the human shape and are inherently ill-spirited. I guess that the imagery and the controversial name don’t seem so cheap after all.
All these abstract thoughts and overwhelming excitement owe their debt to the music so extraordinary, unique and remarkable that I kept putting aside writing this review for quite some time in order to overcome my powerlessness and fully comprehend it. What I can tell you for sure is that it doesn’t sound like anything else out there. This is black metal, certainly, but you won’t find any obvious influences hidden in the backyard as Thantifaxath sound exactly the opposite from any point of comparison that you can possibly think of. In relation to Deathspell Omega for example, they sound way more symmetric, spacious and melody-oriented. Then again if compare them to those retro-sounding Scandinavian black metal bands, this is light years ahead in terms of intelligence and versatility. Either way you put it this Canadians are on top.
Being as memorable as it is, the songwriting on Sacred White Noise will keep echoing in your head for a long time refusing to leave you alone and set you free. Almost every song here have had that very same impact on me, but if I was to pick the nightmare I enjoyed the most I guess I would go with Where I End And The Hemlock Begins, because of the opening riff. That one takes me unmistakably to another dimension every time I listen to it and holds me there for some additional hours after the experience ends. Also the second part of the same song, the one that starts at 3:54 and ends at 5:20, represents yet one more of those mesmerizing little moments that makes me want to go to Toronto just to hug these guys, even though I know how mean they are. However, this is not to say that any other song is significantly inferior to this one as they all have their twists and magic powers, giving the album the opportunity to work extremely well as a continuos 45 minutes long musical journey.
With regards to the core competencies of the band, meaning their playing skills, all three unknown members are equally impressive. Music is built around the tremolo picked riffs and chord progressions that are nothing short of spectacular, just like the bass patterns that restlessly wander around, going hand in hand with the guitar lines rather seldom and only for short periods of time. Drumming is also extremely competent, imaginative, potent and well arranged which is basically the same thing that can be said about the frantic screams delivered by the vocalist who, according to one of the few band pictures I was lucky to observe, plays guitar in Thantifaxath as well.
The basic line-up of guitars, bass and drums is enriched with occasional electronic effects and tasteful use of strings, but also with keyboard layers that are placed discreetly in almost every song with great sense of measure and on all the right places. It is those patterns that give the album a cosmic sound and distinct feeling of hermeticism, estrangement and capacity of setting a certain spooky, psychedelic mood. Production does justice to the music for it is absolutely fantastic and powerful, even though not particularly clean. I really love the sound here and I fell in love with it upon the very first listen, yet it is very hard for me to point the finger at a certain element that I adore so much. I guess it has to do with the general sound frequency of the record that stimulates my brain in a certain way.
Albums like Sacred White Noise are rare to come by, really rare beasts indeed. Hopefully this band will get what it deserves and grow even bigger and better, but until that happens, even if it’s 10 years from now, this music will undoubtedly do a good job at helping us wait.
- Towards The Inevitable
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.