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Profanatica > Thy Kingdom Cum > Reviews > we hope you die
Profanatica - Thy Kingdom Cum

Audacity beyond words - 97%

we hope you die, October 8th, 2020

Profanatica are by now a pillar of American black metal and need little preamble. A brief flash in the pan formed from members of Incantation in the early 90s was kept on life support by drummer and mastermind Paul Ledney and his solo project Havohej. Early material from their ‘Tormenting Holy Flesh’ EP (1992) was rerecording on the ‘Dethrone the Son of God’ album (1993) as Havohej. The project could have been buried entirely after this point. But Ledney decided his creative impetus could not be encapsulated entirely under the Havohej moniker, which was heading in a much more experimental direction by the 2000s. So Profanatica was resurrected in 2001. Output was slow in coming however. ‘Profanatitas de Domonatia’ released in 2007 with original guitarist John Gelso. This was a heavier, brooding, and creepy form of primitive black metal take shape with a truly other-worldly atmosphere. The follow up, 2010’s ‘Disgusting Blasphemies Against God’ was – as the name suggests – a much blunter beast, stripping back the glumness for the sake of single-minded nihilism.

But it’s 2013’s ‘Thy Kingdom Cum’ which interests us here. And we’ll say straight up that this is some of the best works from this artist, and possibly ever from Paul Ledney’s entire output. It seemed to come from nowhere when considered in the light of material from this artist both before and since. ‘Thy Kingdom Cum’ is a chromatic jigsaw of jagged, two or three note riffs, straightforward drum patterns, and sporadic minimal disharmonies. The guitar tone reflects the need to accentuate the clarity and sharpness to the riffs. Gone is the bass heavy tone of previous releases in favour of a crystal-clear distortion. The drums have cut away all reverb. This is a beast of precision and activity, not atmosphere. It could be likened to Deicide’s ‘Legion’ in its manipulation of rudimentary chord progressions that sound more like finger exercises to enhance muscle strength than anything remotely artistic. These simple patterns gradually accumulate through a meticulous blend of repetition and variation, and shifting rhythms. Indeed, the guitars lay down the rhythmic backbone of the music, leaving Ledney’s primitive but unmistakable skin pounding to firm up the core texture rather than keep time.

Sometimes this approach is frankly so outrageous it’s difficult to encapsulate the audacity in words. For instance on the track ‘Definite Atonement’, which opens with a riff that could have been written by placing a cat on a keyboard, and transposing the resulting collection of notes to guitar; before completely tearing apart the tight tempos into a looser, droning beast with abrasive, unstable leads signposting the way through. And that’s the story of the whole album. It harnesses the untamed elements of music that exists beyond tonal centres (and sanity) into something that makes sense to our ears. It does this by forcing them into ruthless rhythmic discipline regiments, and pulling the results together into track structures that feel as if they should be familiar somehow. Intro, bridge, outro, these elements are all present, but they are formed from note clusters that have no business being placed next to one another. It’s a truly fascinating approach to atonal black metal that was sadly not expanded upon on the two follows ups ‘The Curling Flame of Blasphemy’ (2061) and ‘Rotting Incarnation of God’ (2019) which have seen Profanatica play down these techniques for the sake of blunt brutality once more.

This is a shing example of an approach to black metal that remains unique to the US despite antecedents in Finland and Canada. It is superficially basic, and seems to rely on vibe more than the intricacy of composition. Well, that’s one way of looking at it, but if you pop the hood open you will notice there is far more going on in the mechanics of this music in order to achieve this sound. This makes it a style that is surprisingly difficult to imitate. This hasn’t stopped people from trying, but they invariably miss the tricks to creating these underlying layers, that in turn open up the hidden depths where the real magic of this album can found. It hints at the true breadth of expressive range still available in black metal, and what could possibly still be achieved in this framework. For that reason, it should be held up as an exemplar in its field. ‘Thy Kingdom Cum’ remains an album unlike any other. This comes with a caveat however. Ledney may be doing interesting things with Havohej, but the last two Profanatica albums – whilst not terrible – have seen a drop in ambition. But none of this changes the fact that ‘Thy Kingdom Cum’ is the pinnacle of his and Gelso’s achievement, and represents some of the best output from an American outfit in this arena in general.

Originally published at Hate Meditations