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The Age of Dark, Deathly Desires - 96%

bayern, January 3rd, 2018

Ever since I discovered the giants Chemical Breath some 20 years ago, I've always kept an eye on the small, but steady Belgian scene, being fully aware that more greatness of the kind would resurface sooner or later. Well, it was later rather than sooner in this case as Belgium never became a formidable juggernaut when it came to metal, and never fully developed into a masterpiece-churning machine the way all its neighbours, save for Luxembourg of course, did.

Still, almost every single death metal practitioner that have arisen from the small country in the new millennium is a must-check not only by death, but by all fans of good, high quality metal in general. A small, but essential contribution to the field comprising Prejudice (appeared earlier), Dehuman, Serial Butcher, Catarrhal, Leptotrichia, etc., all these acts worthy followers of Chemical Breath, holding onto the technical/progressive death metal idea, above all. The band under scrutiny here are another valuable addition to this group, and may even be considered its leaders at the moment.

What made the band’s music work for me so well was this elusive feel of originality, of more or less conscious desire on the side of the musicians to not belong to any rigid compartment within the death metal kaleidoscope, but to try and do their own thing. Certainly, in the midst of the 00’s there wasn’t much one could do to re-invent the wheel, but at least it was commendable that some were still trying to shift, even if a little bit, from the established canons.

The opening “Contagious” will by no means infect the death metal roster with something too alien and unexplored, but it’s labyrinthine, patiently woven tapestries wrapped by an unobtrusive psychedelic miasma are stylish “winks” at early visionaries like Cadaver and Hieronymus Bosch, the few speedier throw-ins nodding towards Atheist’s “Unquestionable Presence”. An enchanting conglomerate which acquires a more hectic, jazzy flavour on “Sleepless Century”, a creepy highly-stylized shredder the guys working their magic with minimalistic surreal riffage and brief spasmodic bouts of aggression. “Forsaken Flesh” is a more direct, more concise technicaller with a dizzying tempo alternation and abrupt jazzy stopovers, and “Tentacles of Damnation” follows a similar formula only a tad less nervily executed.

“Mind Control” is an exercise in technical wizardry the guys unleashing a cavalcade of spastic, overlapping riff-patterns with copious amounts of melody circling around, the hyper-active delivery reaching a near operatic, black metal-ish fever pitch. “Betrayal of the Light” is a marvellous combination of melody and infernal intricacy the riff-knots spiralling in and out of existence, alluding to the dazzling brutality movement (Cryptopsy, Suffocation,Decrepit Birth); and “The Worm” is a very welcome choppier proposition with slow-burning dramatic accumulations, a masterpiece of puzzling non-rushed dexterity ala Coroner with superb lead sections. “Carcinogenic Matter” brings back the hyper-active cannonades although those are not exactly blast-beat peppered this time, but come with a hefty thrashy flair the outstanding lead pyrotechnics making melodic circles around them. “Involution process” focuses on the melody more despite the lightning-like speedy execution, the band calming down on the few jazz-like jolts, before “The Clue, the Light, and the Death” wraps it on with smattering fireworks of technical riffs and fairly intriguing, twisted stomping walkabouts both sides abandoning their “tussle” for the breath-taking balladic interlude, and for the supreme exiting slab of surreal virtuoso build-ups, a grandiose finale to this thoroughly satisfying fiesta.

Excluding the very standard growly shouty death metal vocals, the rest has this individualistic aura that has started to wear thin within the death metal fraternity, with most of its representatives squarely fitting into either the Death worship, or the mentioned dazzling brutality, or the dystopic abstract (Zillah, Ulcerate, Gorguts, Klast), or the trippy psychedelic, diversification (Obliteration, Tribulation, Beheaded Zombie, Morbus Chron), or the twisted miasmic (Morbid Angel, Immolation), or the Carcass-guided goregrind-prone (Impaled, Exhumed, General Surgery, The County Medical Examiners) branches, not to mention those who walk the paths of the Floridian and the Gothenburg sound inflinchingly…

This album doesn’t fit into either of those categories; it definitely has shades of some, but the overall presentation defies a more scholastic tag. It has its gaze firmly fixed upon the early meisterwerks from the 90’s, but it doesn’t reproduce them note-by-note, neither does it disguise these influences too much with more or less necessary gimmicks. There’s quite a bit of virtuoso juggling/shuffling as well, but the guys know when to stop before turning their feats into an overdone show-off. It’s a perfect package, brutal, complex, and quite technical at various times, which the death metal fan, and not only, would be too willing to revisit every other day until they have detected all the nuances and dashes of “arcane wisdom” contained within, some of which are hard to reveal after just one listen.

The guys have made one more step towards reaching the ultimate creative pool known as the Void with the sophomore which aimed at a more expansive, less clinically technical approach with a bigger emphasis on melody and psychedelic additives, the final product almost equally as compelling reminiscent of other similarly encompassing, shall I also add diversifying, eye-openers like Ara’s “Devourer of Worlds”, Pyrhhon’s “The Mother of Virtues”, and Sectu’s “Nefarious”. The Void keeps beckoning, though; the band’s work hasn’t been finished yet. Who knows, maybe their journey has just started…