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Assume the Godform Through Torment and Absurdity - 98%

bayern, March 22nd, 2017

You have to give it to the guys; they persevered fixed upon their vision, leaving a blazing trail of demos, EP’s and splits until the coveted full-length release became a fact. I’m pretty sure they were having fun along the way starting their journey with a rough-around-the-edges blend of thrash and proto-death which was becoming more polished and more technical with each subsequent effort. By the time it reached the “Dissolved in Absurd” EP in 1991, the band’s style had become more aggressive and more death metal-oriented. However, hardly anyone expected the enormous step forward the band would make with the album reviewed here.

Thormenthor were one of the first acts to become enamored with the vistas that opened before the death metal fraternity once Cynic’s “Focus” was unleashed upon the world. Merely a year after the holy triumvirate in this reformation campaign (the other two being Pestilence’s “Spheres” and Atheist’s “Elements”), these Portuguese bards were ready with their own interpretation of these new tools for musical expansion. The title-track commences the saga with surreal progressive build-ups which even sound more outlandish thanks to the rough brutal death metal vocals; the technical riffs creep unobtrusively until spastic fast-paced strokes start disturbing them as well as dazzling melodic leads. “The Proportional Dream” begins as a chapter from Cynic’s “Focus”, but there’s more to be encountered as more drama is poured later including with the introduction of good clean vocals reminiscent of Snake from Voivod with whom the music also takes a more abstract futuristic turn with robotic rigid riff-patterns. It all develops in an almost dreamy mid-pace at this stage, but the following “Encircled by Aura Sphere” betrays “the idyll” with more dynamic speedier formulas taken straight from the Gorguts and Watchtower textbooks; more surreality is to be swallowed later as the guys space out with quieter bleak landscapes. A very unusual listen so far, one that also shows future acts like Theory in Practice and Martyr how to weave their labyrinthine tapestries.

“Nothing Expanded” “expands” upon the experienced so far weirdness with jarring thrashy rhythms borrowed from Voivod’s “Killing Technology” before more aggressive deathy sections come to play alongside spiral-like virtuoso intricacy. “Imaginary Landscape” is a mazey shredder ala Alarum and mid-period Extol with fusion-like additives embedded prominently together with fast-paced escapades and choppy, jumpy futurism the latter gimmick another reminder of the already mentioned Canadian auteurs. “Aesthetic Blight” starts with a hectic excerpt from Coroner’s “Mental Vortex”, and later on the guys keep up with the thrash as Voivod-ish dissonance “invades” the scene again, the eccentric clean vocals occupying much more space here acquiring softer wave-ish parametres to add more to the inordinately bizarre nature of this cut which also comprises a less ordinary sprawling doomy passage. “Nebula” is 2-min of ambience and noises, and “Inaccessible Art” stops any “access” to the rest of the proceedings with a head-shaking inauguration and a super-fast section; but that’s not all as later the band unleash undecipherable abstract riff “salads” those later used by Martyr again, on “Warp Zone” in particular; expect more aggressive shreds which become more and more chaotic until a more linear staccato ending pacifies the situation. “Karma’s Retribution” is pretty much a dark sombre doomster the guys closing this eventful opus in the most surprising minimalistic fashion.

One should expect the unexpected after all, as the guys showed so nicely earlier, and this subdued epitaph is still a cool addition to their highly unconventional approach to the genre. Combining the eccentricity of Voivod with the aggression of death metal was a pioneering feat back at the time providing a template for many future practitioners (Martyr again, Diskord, Drottnar, etc.) to elaborate on for the creation of other meisterwerks. Putting together the two most experimental sides of thrash and death metal (Cynic + Voivod) was a risky proposition at such an early stage, but these obscure Portuguese pulled it off in a stunningly proficient manner creating a hallucinogenic, psychedelic masterpiece way before someone ever thought of such a possibility. It proved contagious, though, as soon after the Poles Violent Dirge came up with something similar on “Craving” (1995), followed by Scenery’s “The Drowning Shadow of Mankind” (1997), Alarum’s “Fluid Motion” (1998), Martyr’s “Warp Zone” (1999), and many others…

The guys weren’t alone in their fight in their homeland, though, as there was another act who were doing something innovative, too, Afterdeath with their expansion of the bleak Meshuggah-esque chugs into something warmer and more complex (“Backwords”, 1995, and the demos before it). The new millennium also brought these crazy “psychos” Monogono and their absolutely ravishing album “Amuk” (2007), modern technical thrash at its most consummate, and arguably the finest “product” from the Portuguese metal scene of the past 20 years. So Thormenthor should be content enough with the current situation, there are other strivers to achieve the godform from their country at present; artists who are ready to go the extra mile in order to reach the same level of brilliant musical “absurdity”.