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Whose face shall I see but Yours? - 100%

Abhorath, June 17th, 2010

From time to time, you find an artist who, by his (or her) own distorted and perverted worldview, completely reinvents the way to do things. Such an artist is Plague, who seems to consistently pervert even his own style of music, drawing from what he does (he has a distinct and undeniable style) yet recreating it in a way that is decidedly new. He seems to take the approach that music is not something to be enjoyed, but suffered. Here is no exception. I am reminded of Sir Christopher Wren's epitaph: "Si Monumentum Requiris, Circumspice". Although, in light of the absolutely oppressive presence of death with which this album is saturated, I would say, "Si monumentum requiris, introspice in mentem tuam ipse" (that is, if you seek His monument, cast a look within).

First and foremost, this music is absolutely decrepit. It moves slowly, like waves of putrefaction weaving a tapestry in honor of the "eternal worm". The guitars are tuned so low and ominous that their rumble can only herald the opening of the Abyss. Yet in their lethargy is a frantic, claustrophobic intensity that crushes the listener beneath the weight of his own worthlessness. A reviewer before me compared the leads to "vultures" that "circle overhead...awaiting the listener's death", and that is an apt description, as this entire release boils down to that ultimate end: Death. It is the cry of Plague to be that Hand which works the will of Death, devouring the world and everything in it to fade into a darkness from which not even the light of memory can escape. (Indeed, on the title track, he says, "Cast this world and my existence therein into the waiting tendrils of the abyss, that no light or life might escape." Truly, listener, there is no escape.) The riffs meander almost aimlessly (here, reminiscent of Triphane, in an odd way), slithering like the Devourer until you are bound eternally. In addition, there are noises here that can only be likened to a type of machinery, pressing on and on and crushing everything in its path.

Next is the vocals. And goddamn. They are at times shrill, at others low and gutteral, and at all times completely inhuman, possessed, and terrifying. In "Writhing, Collapsed Flesh" is a wall of heavily layered vocals trading back and forth their triumphant death-tongues, building up and building up like a spell or conjuration until the song's culmination. He cries: "Consume me, consume me, destroy all inside and use me, and make my every breath like the beating wings of countless locusts, singing of the end." And we rest in what we think is respite, but where the intensity of this song mellows, the ferocity of the next picks up, leaving no room for gasping breath.

The second song, "Veins of Death and Hunger", is quicker in rhythm than the rest of the album, but in an unsettling and characteristically frantic manner. Musically, it is crushing, the guitars low and heavy, pummeling the listener into submission. The vocal interaction and delivery is just demonic. The only way to describe *how* Plague can manage this is his pure and unadulterated devotion to what shades "swirl as a storm about me." And to add to everything is the lyrics (this stands for the entire album, as well): shrieking of dark angels and veins on the backs of the dead, and using their tongues to awake the Dragon. Half-way through the song is a break into a guitar part that could possibly, under different circumstance, be "beautiful", were it not for the fact that whatever possesses Plague has completely perverted his mode of expression. The clean guitar is rendered decrepit, warbling around uncomfortably and building into the ending segment of the song, which maintains a more "melodic" (if it be lawful to call it such) yet still decayed and rotting presence.

The third song, "Decay", is what one might call our only reprieve. Yet it is far from that. The dissonance and harsh noise create the atmosphere of a crypt and whatever inhuman remains lay buried there. It is the shortest of the four songs, but do not allow its brevity to be considered something that would detract from its quality. It is necessary, the last breath before the extinction that is the title track.

"Enveloped in a Diseased Abyss" is an understatement. This track gives no warning, but plunges the listener and what little humanity he has retained up to this point into that void where darkness shall "plunge itself into the minds of men, destroying all hope with fear and crowning itself their king." It is slow, the burial march, deceptive in that you hope to savor your last bit of life, yet poisoning it with torture and fear. And then the song picks up, double-time. It is like being herded into the slaughterhouse, that quickening of pace. It continues and continues and doesn't let up, all the while you are beaten on all sides by the hideous riffs, relentless. We are bound by two things whose experience we shall never retain in memory: birth and death. And here we are made to curse our birth in light of our impending death. Yet what a beautiful death! The lyrics, in their destructive depravity, coalesce upon (or beneath or through) the music and vocals paint the picture of eradication from the eyes of demons and the ones they possess, leaving us craving our own destruction and the destruction of others for the glory of Satan. Plague shrieks, "I see Lucifer crowned King", and we can only bow our heads and bend our knees in submission, seeing then the darkness from his point of view: the Darkness into which the question is asked, "Whose face shall I see but Yours?"

This release is perfect. It is painful, it is harsh, it is abrasive, and it is NOT something to be enjoyed. It is really hardly music in any conventional sense of the term, and stands as a testament to a perverse genius. Listening to anything by Plague is like standing in a giant Gothic cathedral. You cannot help but stand in fear and awe and the massiveness of the thing, and ponder how inconsequential life really is when standing in the shadow of such monuments. Cast a look within. You will be forever changed.

Borderline essential and incredibly unique - 90%

Noktorn, March 1st, 2010

Nivathe is primarily known as the side project of Plague from Senthil, a band with perhaps the most drastically polarized fanbase in funeral doom. I was never a big fan; I appreciate what they try to do but feel that more often than not they miss the mark with the atmosphere they're trying to achieve. As you would expect, when I received the Nivathe demo as a free bonus in an order from Pale Horse Recordings, I didn't expect a great deal. I was massively surprised; the little two-track promo was devastatingly heavy and unique, with a peculiarly occult atmosphere and overall sound that I hadn't heard anywhere before. I picked up 'Enveloped In A Diseased Abyss' last month; a bit late to the game, maybe, but I'm glad I dropped my money on this album, which is undoubtedly one of the most strikingly and unapologetically devastating doom releases I've heard in recent memory. Nivathe's sound is wholly unlike anything I've heard before in doom or even metal in general, and actually broaches new ideas for the genre as a whole. If you are interested in hearing a possible new angle in metal, this is the album to get.

The sound of Nivathe's material can be generally characterized as black/doom, but heavy intrusions in the form of noise and ambiance are present as well as some of the more avant-garde edges of death metal. A minor comparison to Gallhammer is appropriate in places; similar to that band, there are 'riffs' but little 'riffing'; the notes and chords seem to sort of hang in the air without propulsion, and so listening to a Nivathe song seems to be less of a progression from one point to another so much as slowly building a tower; it stays in the same place but it constantly gets bigger. The incredibly sludgy and blackened production helps it out, with guitars that are simultaneously reedy and ultra-bassy, sort of sliming their way under the airy clean guitars and around the very odd drum samples (which, by the way, are some of the best sounding programmed drums I've heard from such an underground band; the ride cymbal is just about the only thing that gives it away). The vocals, additionally, are of massive note; they're typically a very unhinged, very... unrehearsed scream, in the best way possible, which conveys a sort of darkness and mental illness that you could attribute to old Bethlehem or similar artists.

The aesthetics are all well and good; periodic lulls into ambiance composed of guitar feedback, clean guitar lines, and sound effects, time signature shifts here and there, and some of the best lyrics I've read in a long time. There's something about the structuring of Nivathe's music, though, which makes it even more unnerving than these elements alone would indicate. Songs build in fits and starts, slow variations in guitar lines building ala Wormphlegm to devastatingly loud crescendos before the melody disassembles itself and breaks down into grinding sludge. Maybe it's the way the vocals interact with the music; reading the lyrics, it's as though Plague wrote them without a single thought as to where they were supposed to go, relying on an internal sense of rhythm and meter to improvisationally jam the words wherever they might go. The effect is highly inhuman; no one actually THINKS of vocal patterns like these, especially not with the lurching doomstep riffs underneath where unapologetically dissonant leads circle overhead like vultures awaiting the listener's death.

'Enveloped In A Diseased Abyss' is an intensely curious album, but also oddly addictive; it's one of the very small handful of releases I own which I can listen to multiple times in a row without getting bored. It's staggeringly inaccessible and bizarre; even the 'single' track, 'Veins Of Death And Hunger', while certainly more conventionally black/doom than the shambling specters of the other two main tracks, is still a harrowing and demented listen. This is most certainly not recommended to everyone; most conventional black or doom fans will find this wholly too alien and probably very unmusical despite the subtle melodic underpinnings that run through these four songs. If you think you can handle it, though, 'Enveloped In A Diseased Abyss' is an intensely rewarding and fascinating release that suggests great things to come from this project in the future.