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Does Phil Ever Sleep? - 88%

Thumbman, December 21st, 2018

Although I was previously aware of and enjoyed Chthe'illist's first demo, 2016 was the year I really realized that Phil Tougas was a force to be reckoned with in the death metal scene. Not only did he release a fantastic slab of twisted Finnish inspired death metal for Chthe'illist's first album, but he had a hand in Zealotry's stunning sophomore album and released a bonkers tech death record with First Fragment. Surely this Stakhanovite work effort couldn't endure indefinitely. Flash forward to 2018 and he's somehow in even more bands, Zealotry has dropped their third album, he's on the first Cosmic Atrophy album in a decade and if that wasn't enough Chthe'ilist has dropped a new EP. I think it's safe to say that Phil will be a major force in modern death metal for the foreseeable future.

"Passage into Xexanotth" is the only original song here and it kicks just as much ass as Chthe'ilist does on the full length. You have the same twisted, groove-infested riffage, frantic drumming and the best slap bass in death metal this side of None So Vile. "Passage" keeps the hellish bizzaro vibes going, and this would make a great soundtrack to reading cosmic horror. While Chthe'ilist's detractor's will gripe about the similarities to Timeghoul and Demilich (and a handful of other Finnish death metal bands if they have a good ear), something Chthe'illist does that no one can accuse them of "DemiGhoul" worship for is the inclusion of classic 80's metal guitar solo here. This is present here, and the face-melting dueling guitar leads is Phil at the top of his game.

For the second half of the EP, we get a Crematory cover. Phil has mentioned this Swedish death metal gem in pretty much every interview I've ever read by him, and they're indeed quite awesome. It's a shame they never got to the point of releasing a full length album. The demo he's taking "Beneath the Crypts" from is quite raw and loose, and the production and technicality here is no doubt miles above the original. It doesn't make it any better or worse, it just makes it different. This is a lot more simple than the twisting narrative song structure of "Passage" and it's cool to see such different songwriting work perfectly side by side. While mostly relatively straight forward filthy death metal, "Beneath the Crypts" does have some of that off-kilter angular groove riffage Demilich would later become known for. I wouldn't be surprised if Crematory were one of Demilich's influences.

Passage was recorded over a period of three years and you can really tell the difference in production between the two songs. The original has higher production qualities and the cover is more raw. The production jobs work well with their respective songs. This is a nice little grab bag of quality material until the next album drops. This is one band where I don't give a single flying fuck how original they are and it's honestly becoming a tiresome debate. The next album is going to be a monster if this is any indication.

ask edward davenport what my dick tastes like - 95%

flexodus, December 21st, 2018

Fans of weird death metal sure have their pick of the litter right now. 10 years ago finding bands that channeled the spirit of Timeghoul and Catacomb was a difficult endeavor, but by 2018 it seems like it’s almost one of the more popular styles of retro death. This very month we’ve been graced with new releases by Zealotry and Cosmic Atrophy, both sharing support from guitarist Phil Tougas. But when it comes to truly otherworldly, nethergazing atmosphere, I also love his main project Chthe’ilist, who thankfully dropped a few new tracks this summer.

Well, perhaps “new” isn’t entirely accurate, because like the Vastum/Spectral Voice split, the song “Passage into the Xexanotth” was actually written and partially recorded years before it became public. In fact, it was actually meant to be released in 2015ish on a split with Spectral Voice themselves, paired up with one of their untitled rehearsals (the one that later appeared on a tour promo with the Metallica cover). Which is actually an early version of “Katabatic Depths”, the very same contribution they made to the Vastum split this year… What the heck happened? Will Chthe’ilist v. Spectral Voice beef be this generation’s Emmure v. The Acacia Strain??

Regardless, this song predates Le Dernier Crépuscule, and I’d highly recommend anyone skeptical of that album to check out this EP anyways. The title track is magnificent, a swirling and immense death metal epic that is certainly strong enough to stand on its own. It’s got everything, from Cryptopsy-styled slap bass, tasteful symphonic and choral effects floating behind the slower riffs, and an incredible series of guitar solos that begin harried and anxious before transforming into slower, ethereal lamentations. The vocals alternate between ominous bubbling and murky grunting, serving their purpose to not distract when the riffing gets faster and tumultuous. Also of note are the lyrics, which are a sequel of sorts to “Scriptures from the Typhlodians”. Phil’s lyrical style feels like a narrative, Lovecraftian counterpart to Lord Worm, where there are so many words crammed into the song it feels impossible that he is actually singing what he wrote, despite the presence of regular and repeated vocal rhythms.

There is also the Crematory cover, which is an excellent choice and blends in perfectly among Chthe’ilist’s other material. The Crematory demos have a far grimier and downtuned style than typical Swedeath, a fact which is rather forgotten considering the Denial EP, their most recognized work, has a more melodic and HM-2 buzzsaw feeling. But “Beneath the Crypts” is pure rotten, sloppy Euro death metal, almost sounding like a track from Nespithe given a more straightforward, headbanging approach. Hearing it with a louder and fuller mix is a real treat, and hopefully it implores some people to check out Wrath from the Unknown.

Despite the fact that we had to wait a few extra years to hear this song from the split that never was, the extra time used to refine and record it has paid off in spades. “Passage into the Xexanotth” is a titanic death metal track that serves as great gateway not only into Chthe’ilist, but Phil Tougas’ many projects as a whole. If you treasure unusual and overwhelming atmosphere in your metal, this is for you. Just don’t forget your English-Xexanotthian dictionary.