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Stunned: me. Stunning: this. - 93%

autothrall, May 10th, 2014

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.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com