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Lustrous, Complex Hustle’n Bustle; the Mayhem… - 100%

bayern, June 19th, 2017

When a friend gave me “Temple of Gore” in 2003, I didn’t even listen to it till the end; I just couldn’t quite see how this US act would fit into the second wave of black metal provided that said wave was already gone deep underground by that time. Yes, the US scene had shown some interest in the Norwegian heritage from the early/mid-90’s, but I couldn’t see why anyone should be salivating over this prospect… Needless to add, I lost whatever references I had to the band under scrutiny here, and a few months down the line I completely forgot about them.

Some time in 2011, whole six years after the release of the album reviewed here, we have a conversation with this guy about US technical death metal. He was complaining about Suffocation, about how after they came back with “Souls to Deny” it wasn’t the same anymore as they have become slower and not as flamboyant. Then he complained about Cynic, how they betrayed the whole movement with “Traced in Air”, and also about the latest Atheist opus… Just as he was complaining and moaning he started throwing some names, switching onto the positive side of the American scene: Horde Casket, Demonicon, Rings of Saturn, Chaos Inception, Soreption, Dismal Lapse, Severed Saviour, … Some of those names I’d already heard, some I hadn’t. “And especially Crimson Massacre, but they don’t seem to be very active”, he said something like that. I recalled that band instantly only because that other guy mentioned Crimson Glory a few days earlier, and I made an association by the name. I asked the guy if he wasn’t mistaken as these folks were some kind of black metal as far as I remembered; but he simply took out a CD and played it for me…

“Lustre of Pandemonium” was such a radical shift of style that it would be impossible for one to believe that this was the same band who played on the debut. In other words, the band had abandoned whatever black metal infatuations they had initially, and had replaced them with some of the most complex and most immaculately performed technical death to ever come out of the States. After the genre’s technical/progressive metamorphoses in the early-90’s, it peaked several times since then, on Cryptopsy’s “None So Vile“ (1996), Necrophagist’s “Onset of Putrefaction” (1999), Psycroptic’s “The Sceptre of the Ancients” (2002), etc., and now it has bumped onto another, very unexpected one. How could it have foreseen this coming, from a supposed black metal outfit at that… fairy tale stuff, one that only made this side of the good old death metal more appealing and by all means more interesting.

This opus is arguably the most complex affair released in the annals of death metal in the new millennium, and as such may not be the best possible option for a large portion of the fanbase who might not be prepared for this insoluble mathematical equation. The calculated, meticulously assembled chaos starts with “Catalyst’s Tongue” which has one of the most abrupt, unheralded beginnings in metal history; the infernal shreds commence just like that without even the listener having pressed “play” yet; a cavalcade of super-intricacy showers the poor fan who has no place to run and hide from this scary downpour with swirling, constantly overlapping riffs putting him/her in the epicentre of a black hole of fast multi-layered rifforamas which still know their more moderate side, please understand slower, but by no means less technical; these are 5-min of the most riff-dense technical melee ever created substituting for an entire full-length. “Conquest” could be viewed as a respite, 2-min of brutal technical wizardry, not as mind-alteringly complex, but definitely highly dizzying. “The Devourer” shreds in a slightly more laid-back fashion the guitars served with a bit less speed still left within the hallucinogenic spiral-like confines as the listener will have no time to take a breath from this perennial hyper-intricate whirlpool.

“Epoch” exudes some semblance of normality with not as intense mid-paced riffage although the riff “salad” is equally as perplexing especially when the band return to the speedy parametres in the second half. “The Hyperborean Scolior Epitaph” may come as a big shock to some; to others it would be a huge delight as it’s 12-min of enchanting progressive acoustics, no metal here under any form. The band as well as the audience definitely needed a break from the “madness”, but whole 12-min of serene tranquil acoustics may be a bit too much to bear by the “mathematicians”. No worries, the latter will have plenty of chances to boggle their minds later on, first with “Redemption”, a spastic disorienting headacher ala Atheist’s “Unquestionable Presence” the guys taking it relatively easy without piling up a riff after riff of the utmost complexity, leaving the more labyrinthine histrionics for the following title-track which begins with a most chaotic accumulation of illogical time-signatures, and although later marginally more orthodox motifs can be detected, this composition remains a not very easy one to swallow with chaos reigning supreme with beautiful, equally as twisted, melodies circling around bewitching and enwrapping the listener in a fascinating over 7-min “waltz”. “Sacrifice” is 3-min of atonal surreal guitar dexterity the “melody vs. technicality” symbiosis working miracles with tightly woven riff-knots of dazzling brutality which would make Cryptopsy’s “None So Vile” and Suffocation’s “Effigy of the Forgotten” sound like incomplete sketches or theses of university students. “Of Perverted Hope and Fragment” has the unenviable task to conclude this most eventful recording, and it unleashes another 10.5-min of over-the-top technicality the pyrotechnics reaching classical virtuosity, the musical exploits acquiring operatic proportions excluding the gruff semi-shouty death metal vocals which simply can’t be noticed for most of the time since this overwhelming supply of pure chaos magick in its musical form pretty much engulfs everything.

Those who don’t like such exercises in overt, exuberant technicality will have run away after the 3rd min; those who love to hear less decipherable musical puzzles will probably end up listening to this opus for days, and maybe even months. I don’t know how it would feel to listen to something like that for days on end, cause I haven’t done it myself, but I presume it may cause some slight mental aberrations, or some severe form of vertigo. Swirling spinning riffs offered at such time-bending velocity in such quick succession has never been done before, and I doubt if anyone would be able to beat that; this is controlled alluring musical chaos at its most spell-binding, it pretty much depletes a whole genre in its entirety not leaving much room for similar exploits that would end up being compared to it with the scales tipped towards… well. One can seriously sit down and ponder over the future of technical death metal after such a thorough showdown. Where can it possibly go from here? To another dimension for sure, but can we, the mortals, follow it there…

Not surprisingly around the same time the death metal cohorts started shifting from the norms: Cryptopsy tried their hands on deathcore; Suffocation slowed down leaving their brutal roots behind; Necrophagist keep postponing their proverbial third full-length; acts like Morbus Chron, Beheaded Zombie, Obliteration, Tribulation, etc. introduced devious psychedelic dissonant touches into the death metal palette; others (Psycroptic, Punish) shifted towards the thrash metal side… Even Crimson Massacre themselves haven’t dared to produce a follow up, 12 years down the line. Elsewhere the death metal kaleidoscope continues unperturbed, of course, nothing to be worried about, and that’s perhaps the best piece of news. The good old death metal survived the ultimate “massacre”, the crimson one; now it should brace itself for the coming pandemonium which will land unexpectedly with all the lustre, and all the colours of the rainbow.