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Brilliant black metal - 97%

Lustmord56, February 3rd, 2009

Originally published at by Erik Thomas

If a complete stranger or non metal head were to come up to me today and ask me “What is Black Metal”? I’d give him this record. Sure there’s all sorts of classic options from Emperor through Marduk, Immortal, Leviathan and such, but as of right now A Spell for the Death of Man, for me, seems to be an album that captures the very essence and spirit of black metal in all its forms. And it’s a one man project.

Yup-this terrific album is the brain child of Xos (or Chris Grigg) and while you’d typically expect the usual depressive lo fi scrawl from a US (Philadelphia) one man black metal project, Woe turns out to be one of the very best and well done, pure black metal records I’ve heard in quite some time, capturing the misanthropy, tortured melody, scarred atmospherics and introspective, craggy nihilism of the genre in 8 perfectly done songs.

The guitar tone is clean but raw and the bass is barely there as a steady back ground, but the guitars carry the show with a perfectly balanced mix of slice and dice riffs, mid paced control, carefully placed, seething underlying melodies and just the right amount of ambiance and atmospherics. Grigg’s vocals are a pretty standard screech but are effective in glossing the music with the expected vocal fury that becomes black metal.

From the dreamy throes that delicately start 9 minute opener “Solitude” to fuzzed out, droning feedback of closer “Memento Mori” , A Spell for the Death of Man seems to drip emotion and angst edged with searing melody is a very Weakling sort of way, but with more polish and a more direct, deeply personal level of suffering and suffocating atmosphere. “Alone with Our Failures” and the blistering melody of personal favorite “Longing is All That Will Remain” (the section that starts at 4:23 is just intense) explode from the speakers with a precise contorted sense of precise, slicing harmonies. “Condemned as Prey” sees Xos spiting out some vitriol lyrics before the song unleashes a barrage of tightly wound, scathing but at the same time, depressive harmonies. My other favorite track “I See No Civilization” arguably has the most melodic riff, but it’s rendered with such a tangible sense of angst and emotional depth you can almost see wounds, physically and emotional, open before your eyes.

Behind Krallice’s debut, this had to be one of the most impressive debuts of US black metal and all the more impressive it comes from the mind and hands of one tortured individual without stepping over into full on depressive mopey-ness but instead self cuts with a vitriolic sense of self loathing. There’s no doubt in my mind if I had heard this earlier it would have been mentioned in my year end list. I just hope Xos can keep this high standard for any forthcoming releases.