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Labyrinthine Sceneries to Lose Yourself Into - 97%

bayern, March 13th, 2018

Although I love this band to bits, every single note they have composed, I seldom come to think of them when they’re not immediately in sight. I did write a review for their debut, but only after I had bought the CD a few days earlier which, respectively, compelled me to do that. I did listen to the album reviewed here quite a few times when it got released six years ago, but then again it all went to the shelf, or the hard drive (both in this case), these gorgeous “sceneries” proving somehow elusive as they don’t reside at the tip of my tongue, or at the top of my brain cells… I’m sitting here now writing about them only cause I saw a thread on a site the other day that was discussing the thrash/death metal movement in the Czech Republic, and I was quite surprised to find out that there were quite a few other metal heads who were also aware of this act’s exploits…

And this should by all means be the case as this outfit have been one of the few very consistently exciting providers of technical/progressive death/thrashisms of the new millennium, the mentioned, earlier released debut included. What’s particularly amazing in their case is that they continuously manage to extract copious amounts of ingenious, fabulously intricate moments without adhering to speed, maybe on a couple of very isolated occasions. It’s truly mesmerizing to listen to these elaborate surreal, sometimes plain anti-aggressive, riff-formulas that still have this urgent, hectic vibe to them. Other outfits (Serdce, Unreal Oveflows, Sadist, Drottnar, Will’O’ Wisp, Alarum, etc.) have also tried something similar, and have largely succeeded in evoking similar enchanting labyrinthine vistas, but this band, and this album in particular, comes very near the top of this pack with vision to spare.

Angelic female vocals usher the unparalleled fiesta, accompanying a very quiet intro that merges with jarring staccato guitars and haunting keyboards on “Mist of Reality”, a bewitching proposition that grows into a cavalcade of jumpy overlapping motifs ala Sadist’s “Crust”, the thickening atmosphere helped by a few fusion-like strokes and supreme atonal shredding ala Mekong Delta. The not very expressive semi-declamatory death metal vocals have always been a side-dish to the great music, and here they settle for the same assisting role the guy not straining himself too much, also missing from the officiant operatic intro to “Malleus Maleficarum”, the ultimate dizziness-causer with angular rhythmic leaps and bounds galore, an utterly disorienting ride that gets enriched by fusion-esque obliviousness, more melodic operatic add-ups, and even a sudden speedy bash.

And this is just the awakening… sorry, the beginning “Abyss of Awaken” pricking the listener’s psyche with weird riff-accumulations, twisted melodies, and some quirky cleaner singing on top of a volatile jazzy passage. All this gorgeousness culminates on the supreme all-instrumental track, a conglomerate of shape-shifting rifforamas, surreal dramatic build-ups, contrasting balladic respites, and atmospheric keyboard sweeps the latter calling to mind Sadist again. The guys match this masterpiece every bit of the way, though, on “Armful of Eternity” which binds the best from Finland’s finest (Nomicon and Demilich) into one utterly eccentric amalgam with non-linear riff-paths carved every few seconds, with multiple surprises and spiral-like riff-patterns, the excellent melodic leads the only semblance of normality on this otherworldly roller-coaster. An influx of keyboards awaits the listener on “Apostate”, a more moderate, less exuberant technicaller with bigger focus on lead configurations and melodic, albeit still jumpy, walkabouts. “Hallucination”, another all-instrumental proposition, concentrates on the jazz and the fusion to justify its title, and succeeds to ensure a laid-back respite for its creators who here aim at less aggressive, King Crimson-esque jams. No such films on “Sieve of Infinity” which nails a stylish riff after another this hectic symphony also attempting something more brutal for a brief moment, not to mention the lyrical escapade, also accompanied by cleaner vocals that would befuddle the listener even more before the band finish him/her off with a vortex of virtuoso super-technical riffage which winds in and out of existence, gradually subsiding into a serene ambient finale.

More thrash-fixated and more diverse than the band’s previous three instalments, this opus is a most logical conclusion to the loftier side of the death metal diversification process that was started three years earlier on the works of Serdce (“The Alchemy of Harmony”) and Beheaded Zombie (Happiness for All”) where the bands tried to break the core of the death metal template by incorporating more expansive progressive metal layouts. If the former were looking at an established model (Atheist’s “Elements”), and the latter spaced out too much, epitomizing the term “surreality” in all its entirety, this album, alongside Disaffected’s “Rebirth”, retained the dynamics and the intensity of said template by submerging it in more melodious environment, in the Portuguese’s case, and in labyrinthine levels of complexity, in the case here. There are moments when the delivery almost tips over the edge towards more meticulous abstractism, but these are also the times when the guys show their mastery by adeptly avoiding falling into those less decipherable potholes.

The thick atmospheric setting, especially when the keyboards come to play, will nicely remind of Sadist’s monumental “Crust”, both albums also sharing the penchant for the not always heralded passages of tranquillity and the less metal-prone progressivisms, the Italians trying to resurrect the oppressive grandeur of their magnum opus on their more recent efforts to varied success. The album reviewed here has achieved that on all counts although it comes closer in spirit to Alarum’s “Natural Causes” or even Extol’s self-titled of more recent releases than, say, “Season of Change” or “Hyaena”, and not only due to its again more overtly aggressive, thrash-fixated character. To extract the same amount of infernal, mazey intricacy from a similar non-speedy, twistedly surreal frame, one really has to try… very hard at that.

Alas, it seems as though not many remained the capable to do that as those outfits who didn’t split up (Disaffected, Serdce) went too far down the psychedelic progressive metal rabbit hole on their subsequent efforts. Could this be the next logical step for every practitioner from this trend? If it is then I had better let my hopes for second “mental confusion” die away… Or, shall I leave a small door open for a pleasant surprise? One never knows what “sceneries” would befall him/her in the untapped, full of infinite labyrinthine configurations, future.