Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The Best of 2015

My first ever End of Year list, in no particular order, and not restricted to full-length releases. Most demos and EPs are usually more interesting, anyway.

There are a few recent releases on the ever-growing, unwieldy to-listen pile that could most probably be added to this, but the year draws to a close...

Ambevilence - 'Ambevilence' EP
Tetragrammacide - 'Typhonian Wormholes...' EP
Serum Dreg - 'Impure Blood' demo
Genocide Shrines - 'Manipura Imperial Deathevokovil...'
Malthusian - 'Below the Hengiform' EP
Devouring Star - 'Through Lung and Heart'
Misþyrming - 'Söngvar elds og óreiðu'
Spectral Voice - 'Necrotic Doom' demo
Revenge - 'Behold.Total.Rejection'
Pneuma Hagion - 'Trinity I' demo
VI - 'De Praestigiis Angelorum'
Vorum - 'Current Mouth' EP
Shroud of The Heretic - 'Unorthodox Equilibrium'
Adversarial - 'Death, Endless Nothing and the Black Knife of Nihilism'
Sheidim - 'Amidst the Ashes of Consciousness / In the Light of the Dying Stars' EP
Mortuus Umbra - 'Cathecism'
Slidhr - 'Spit of the Apostate' EP
Grief Feeder - 'Plague Architect'
Unyielding Love - 'Demo 2015'
Mgła - 'Excersizes in Futility'
Dendritic Arbor - 'Romantic Love'
Cruciamentum - 'Charnel Passages'

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Acosmic Engineering

Band: Tetragrammacide
Release: 'Typhonian Wormholes: Indecipherable Anti-Structural Formulæ' EP (2015)
No amount of metaphors and high-brow allusions to the horrors of warfare can truly do this EP justice. A release of blistering, colliding, vociferous exclamations, it seems laughable that the likes of Metallica would be used as sleep-depriving aural torture when cacophony such as this exists.
Scattering musicality to the wind, India's Tetragrammacide channel the obstreperous nature of early Nyogthaeblisz and Goatpenis in concocting their particularly harsh strain of black/death metal. Incessantly barbaric in nature, 'Typhonian Wormholes...' will challenge even the most hardened extreme metal devotees, as well as shaking up more established and influential acts, such as Revenge, in terms of utter savagery.
To many, this will present nothing but a ridiculous tumult, a lack of skill buried beneath ultra distortion and elementary, grating noise. Overall, the EP is an acquired taste, perhaps, but the songs and riffs that do seep through the endless buzz saw din and crashing of cymbals are wholly effective, oddly catchy and void of any embellishment. In this is heard a rewarding mash up of Damaar, Genocide Shrines, Conqueror, and of course, Revenge - all of which, despite the jaded nature of such comparisons, creates a sound that is arguably the very definition of 'war metal'.
For black/death/war metal territory, apparently saturated with carbon copies, bullet belt-laden posturing, dusty gas masks and recycled chord progressions, it takes a release such as this to blow away all cobwebs. Refreshingly, the deranged duo that form Tetragrammacide are taking no prisoners and are testament to the fervent nature of their country's scene. While they may utilise many of the trappings common to their musical brethren, when juxtaposed next to audio terror as callous as 'Typhonian Wormholes...', the brandished machetes and obscured identities regain some of their unnerving essence.
Though relentless and unapologetic, Tetragrammacide's brash variety of 'martial occult black metal' is also both insisting and enthralling; the EP is a surprising and penetrative release, something almost otherworldly in its tangible enmity. In short, this is total musical vehemence distilled into just over twenty minutes and a release new and old addicts alike will return to again and again.
Rating: 85%

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Crimson Footprints

Band: Plagues
Release: 'Death March' demo (2015) - Digital

The internet age has brought with it many a double-edged sword. Musically, it has allowed people with even the most rudimentary access to reveal their wares to the world. As some find success, others get lost amid the din of ever harsh online criticism, and often for good reason.

As a somewhat utilitarian genre, black metal was a ripe target due its early veneration of sub par equipment and steadfastly cut and dry methods. This has given rise to some of the most mediocre offerings black metal adherents have yet been exposed to; eye-catching cover art frequently belies mundane attempts to ape the genre's best and brightest.

A welcome disparity, Massachusetts three-piece Plagues sidestep the tiresome white noise of the internet's faux-underground denizens, presenting a treatment of black metal firmly rooted in the discipline of the second wave; mid-tempo blasted sections collide aptly with black 'n' roll, punk-ish movements while slower passages hint at layered, clever melodies.

Plagues' more dirge-laden elements turn out to be the most interesting, demonstrating a veritable talent for melodious subtleties which craft almost perciptible atmospheric veils. At other points, there exists a sense of the epic, as fist-pumping song fragments nod toward legendary Immortal's singular talent for transportation to fantasy-soaked black metal vistas.

However, this three-piece continously steer toward more bleak realms; the cover art for the demo emanating a foreboding aura reminiscent of that used for Krieg's classic album 'The Black House'. Song titles such as "Crush the Messiah", "Abyss" and the titular presentation make plain Plagues' thematic approach and overall disposition as a band.

There is plenty here (and across their other demos) to cause a few feet to tap, as well as inspiring downloads. Plagues surely know what they are doing, but added stylistic focus and more time spent wading in ethereal waters could see something akin to Mgła emerge over time, catapulting them from Bandcamp obscurity and onto the radars of people who know that USBM means more than Liturgy and Deafheaven.

Rating: 60%

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Solace in Emaciation

Band: Uškumgallu
Release: 'Uškumgallu' demo (2015)

The primitive black metal formula seems simple, yet many contemporary bands are either dismissed as mere clones of the genre's progenitors, as pretenders to an ancient throne, or criticised for too-obviously-intentional rawness and heavy handed lo-fi worship.
Conversely, there exists acts such as Uškumgallu. This Oregan-based two-piece have obviously studied diligently, producing nostalgia-soaked black metal with an undeniably chilling quality that is mercifully void of any trappings that would see proceedings descend into parody.
Uškumgallu's first self-titled offering, released via shadowy black/death/noise conspirators, Vrasubatlat, is a three-track, thoroughly impetuous declaration of singular design.
Opening with a mid-tempo, rollicking section, which repeats in-between more aggressive (and more effective) blasted moments, Uškumgallu employ the best of black metal's ability to be both pugnacious and hauntingly memorable, sounding similar to Clandestine Blaze at times.
The demo's incursion truly amps from the second track, "Dolor", while an impressive and near impeccable vocal delivery adds an almost tangible eeriness, oozing atmosphere and creating an audible despair and anguish. The band's repetitious but potent riff structures are endlessly apt, shot through with hypnotic and melancholic qualities that speak of a definite harmonious know-how.
Presented as the release's final offering, "Solace in Emaciation" is a dirge driven, weighty slab of black metal, dripping with a molasses-like phonic venom. Uškumgallu's self-titled proposal nestles comfortably next to the other disseminations from the Vrasubatlat coven to date, and though some acts are sharing members, there is a veritable sense of distinctive identities and accompanying auras, all of which works to promise some truly shattering black and death metal in the near future.
Rating: 75%

Thursday, 8 October 2015

A Wretched Prayer

Band: Serum Dreg
Release: 'Impure Blood' demo (2015)

It is difficult to understand those who put forward lamentations concerning the state of black and death metal. As genres (and movements, more importantly) their most indubitable recesses are perpetually bubbling, a cauldron nought but foul and always overflowing, spilling here and there splashes of vile concoction.

Serum Dreg's 2015 demo, 'Impure Blood', is the second release granted agonising life by Vrasubatlat, a purposeful conspiracy of like minds, communicating ancient visions of primal irreverence via black metal, death metal and noise releases.

This bold four-track demo recalls the genres' most seminal releases, those that emerged at a time when the jagged line between black and death metal was far more blurred and both genres promoted and followed a single-minded focus. As a side project of Ash Borer members, who also fill roles in other Vrasubatlat-backed acts, Uškumgallu and Triumvir Foul, 'Impure Blood' is an erudite treatment of black/death metal as a vessel of extolment.

Akin to a recently discovered, dust-caked mix tape from the early 90s, Serum Dreg channel the energy of early Darkthrone, granting listeners an insight into what may have occupied that gap between 'Soulside Journey' and 'A Blaze in the Northern Sky'. Certain riffs and song structures possess a definite Darkthrone-esque gallop that's interwoven with acknowledgements of contemporary acts like Clandestine Blaze, as well as moments of a black 'n' roll sensibility. More thrashy elements even allow the odd nod to early Slayer.

The demo's faster (and most recommended) passages are bass-heavy, confessing similarities to frenzied black/death juggernauts Teitanblood, though Serum Dreg are less obstinately leaden and claustrophobic. A knowledgeable use of tempo variation and song length keeps proceedings fresh while the utterly apt vocal performance furnishes echoed howls and bellows of anguish and anger that float menacingly above the sepulchral orchestra at work.

Giving the overall impression of a recorded rehearsal session, 'Impure Blood' is an offering of immediate and unnervingly impassioned black/death metal, free of embellishment and nonsense. As a statement of intent from both Serum Dreg and Vrasubatlat, it is explicit, staunch and a reminder of black and death metal's shared, inherent otherworldly endowments.

Rating: 80%

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Through the Corpse Maze

Band: Abominor
Release: 'Opus: Decay' EP (2015)

Thoroughly en vogue of late, the most attuned devotees find it difficult not to gravitate toward anything labelled 'Icelandic black metal'. However, it isn't without good reason, as the well-knit scene spits out impressive release after impressive release at a seemingly unstoppable rate.

Confidently demonstrating their take on the Icelandic sound, Abominor are bass-heavy, textured and an almost tangible, swirling sonic mire. Possessing more of a black/death bearing than many of their compatriots, replete with blasted, dissonant sections, it is when affairs slow down, even slightly, that things get truly interesting.

Though it may be sacrilegious to even suggest, the band drift into post-black metal territory on occasion by offering inventive yet subtle melodies neatly woven into the slow- to mid-tempo portions of their work. Mercifully, tortured vocals and a return to Deathspell Omega-style slided riffing ensure Abominor steer clear of saccharine sweet, flannel shirt environs before their efforts are indelibly sullied.

Now synonymous with the aforementioned Icelandic sound, 'Opus: Decay' was recorded, mixed and mastered at Studio Emissary, the Icelandic studio curated by an Irish man who has had input into some the genre's best output in recent years. A veritable midas touch has lent weight and credibility to releases from Dysangelium, Sinmara and Svartidauði; further involvement with both Icelandic acts and some from further afield is sure to give life to yet more future classics.

To solidify an emerging Irish/Icelandic union even more, the EP was handled by veteran Irish underground label Invictus Productions, which sees Abominor rub shoulders with other noteworthy emerging acts such as Akatechism, Antiversum and Malthusian, nestling them among yet more of the heavier black/death metal recipe.

As is the case with many of the best EPs, this offering also finds its pace towards its all too premature close. 'Opus: Decay' sufficiently demonstrates Abominor's ability to hew arresting material imbued with just enough melody, lashings of atmosphere and a certain malevolent pulse. There's definite potential on display here, and sounding that little bit different to the other Icelandic maniacs currently operating in the same sphere can't do Abominor any harm, but quite possibly the total opposite.

Rating: 75%

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Hurling Burning Spears

Band: Genocide Shrines
Release: 'Manipura Imperial Deathevokovil: Scriptures of Reversed Puraana Dharmurder' (2015)

Ears very used to European and North American death and black metal will sometimes suffer a form of aural lethargy, leading them to seek more inventive (or at least unprocessed) cacophony.

Asian and South American bands have continuously exhibited a seemingly inherent talent for recapturing the primal essence of the most extreme of metal genres while demonstrating an awareness of contemporary trends that they often warp and re-purpose with fantastically devastating results.

Sri Lanka's Genocide Shrines left heads spinning with their 2012 EP, 'Devanation Monumentemples', which broadcast the band as serious contenders within the international black/death metal confederacy. Its blend of heads-down, no frills black/death akin to Proclamation and Witchrist garnered generally positive reviews from worthwhile sources and crafted the template for what fans hoped would eventually appear.

Ritualistic intonations open their latest expiation, 'Manipura Imperial Deathevokovil: Scriptures of Reversed Puraana Dharmurder', released via Canada's supporters of total death, Vault of Dried Bones. Layered with an undeniably Asian texture, which is both fresh and forthright in setting the tone of this excellent record, its presentation is immediate and unbridled. In an arena calloused to seemingly endless levels of down-tuning and distortion, Genocide Shrines' tone manages to surprise, being concurrently superbly sludgy yet crisp, and confoundedly heavy in the truest sense.

Incessant waves of crashing, precision percussion complement audible, layered riffing that manages to remain thoroughly aggressive throughout the release's duration. Though there is some blending in the tracks, variations in pacing supply a vigour that may astonish some within the context of such an album. Well-situated discordance, nestled among the record's slower sections, nods toward the musicianship behind what is otherwise all out blitzkrieg.

Before, between and after tracks, eastern monk type chanting, panpipes, echoing sounding bowls, hypnotic ceremonial drumming and adult film moaning encourages the band's anti-Dharmic suggestion; the usual simplicity and harmlessness of wind chimes suddenly becomes wholly ominous. Seen throughout the release's accompanying artwork, the band - bar their group photo - have eschewed the commonplace gas masks and bullet belts of their genre for more apt and aesthetically sound iconography, which adds both a maturity and thoughtfulness to affairs by lending cultural weight and consummate eeriness.

'Manipura Imperial...' is a rich presentation of militant, oppressive, sanguine, bristling black/death metal with a disposition all its own. While Genocide Shrines share the impetus and sonic realms of bands such as Wrathprayer and Daamar, comparisons to Spanish powerhouse duo Teitanblood are the most fitting (and complementary), yet the Sri Lankans are no mere copycats. This record is one of the best of 2015.

Rating: 95%

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Fountains of Ash

Band: Malthusian
Release: 'Below the Hengiform' EP (2015)

It is hard not to overstate the importance of this release for Irish metal. Next to the decades of hard work put in by stalwarts Primordial and the feverish dabblings of black metal entities Slidhr, Myrkr and Rebirth of Nefast, Malthusian now occupy the role of Ireland's answer to internationally recognised acts such as Mitochondrion and Antediluvian.

Malthusian's molasses-like concoction of black, death and doom metal is accomplished and developed beyond the band's years. As Ireland has yet to see the usual crop of Beherit and Blasphemy worshippers that proceed something as evolved and tight as Malthusian's output, this EP is a brilliant and very welcome enigma in terms of a scene's musical growth.

On 'Below the Hengiform' attention is initially drawn to the competency of drummer JK, who also lends his talents to Irish death/grind veterans Abaddon Incarnate and recently reunited post-black metal success story Altar of Plagues. Alongside sundry rhythmic patterns, serpentine guitar work and innovative vocal stylings add variety and layering to the consistently enthralling happenings. At points, chant-like throat-singing, performed by vocalist/bassist PG (also of Irish doom/death outfit Mourning Beloveth) adds a definite sense of the supernatural.

Within the release's three offerings, there exists moments of genuinely chilling magic; nods to Morbid Angel's often overlooked opus, 'Formulas Fatal to the Flesh', are audible in the stop/start makeup of some sections, while the closing moments of "Slouching Equinox" are nothing short of death/doom mastery. Here is technicality in abundance, but void of the usual lethargy that can frequently curse such material. This quartet haven't sacrificed the wall of sound, the brickwork is simply more skilled.

In essence, 'Below...' owes its satisfying bearing to varied pacing, assured musicianship and optimal production values, all of which demonstrate the band's allegiance to their chosen genres, as well as a level of professionalism and prowess that enables Malthusian to nestle next to the aforementioned big names with ease.

Akin to all landmark releases, this one terminates all too soon. Often questioned on the movement toward the eventual presentation of a full-length, the band are in no rush, instead preferring to ensure that not a superfluous moment makes the final cut by refining their output via releases such as this.

Having shared stages with notables like Dead Congregation, Dødsengel and Altar of Plagues, to name but an illustrious few, Malthusian are a testament to passion and perseverance, and the current idols of Ireland's burgeoning metal underground.

Rating: 90%

Sunday, 12 April 2015

The Gospel of the Slit Throat

Band: Devouring Star
Release: 'Through Lung and Heart' (2015)

It is difficult to consider comparisons to heavyweights Deathspell Omega as a disservice to any hardworking black metal band or act. For many, they represent black metal's artistic zenith, musically, lyrically and aesthetically.

The band's current sonic direction, heard only as seedlings on 'Si Monumentum...' and more recently fully abloom on 'Paracletus', has been described as everything from jazz black metal to bearing more similarities to the likes of The Dillinger Escape Plan than anything ever wildly imagined by Darkthrone. Yet, despite those apparent non-sequiturs within the rigid, serious world of black metal, they are considered untouchable and invariably wholly seminal.

Finland's Devouring Star revealed themselves in 2014, brandishing a rancorous two-track, self-titled demo. Arresting, developed and ambitious, it caught a lot of warranted attention and it took no time at all for the Deathspell Omega comparisons to lazily fill headlines and column space. While the similarities and nods were audible, Devouring Star avoided all of the flattery utilised by Dutch outfit Dodecahedron, for example. In short, Devouring Star, as a contemporary black metal band, couldn't help but be influenced by Deathspell Omega, but their Finnish charm shone through the Francophilic tendencies of their peers.

While 'Through Lung and Heart' opens with yet more Deathspell Omega acknowledgement, displaying 'Kénôse'-like plodding drums beneath discordant, jarring riffing, as well as some of those The Dillinger Escape Plan-style bass-heavy, intricate, slow section breakdowns, Devouring Star manage to incorporate every aspect of this into an all-engulfing, organic sound that is very much their own. It is warm, rich and pulsating, and not a mere carbon copy.

Niceties aside, this is a merciless black metal record, with very little in the way of respite to be found track to track, no matter the music's pace. Interestingly, the band's steadfast pummelling drumming and dissonant riffing, while entirely competent and listenable, often gives way to inspired slow to mid pace sections that shed light on excellently crafted melodies, particularly in "To Traverse the Black Flame". Added to this, an unhurried section heard within the second track, "Decayed Son of Earth", is reminiscent of slower portions found on Funeral Mist's excellent 'Maranatha'.

As an entire offering and debut full-length, fortified by visuals/layout from Comaworx and Brianvdp, as well as eloquent lyrical oblations, 'Through Lung and Heart' is fantastically strong and truly haunting in many respects. While its vocals may be considered par for the course and are definitely one of the weaker aspects of this album, the rest of the musicianship is focused, suitably abrasive and memorable, unlike so much of their counterparts' output. Among a slew of post-Deathspell Omega acts, Devouring Star have set themselves apart with apparent ease. Watch this one make Best of 2015 lists later in the year.

Rating: 85%

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Black Ice

Band: Misþyrming
Release: 'Söngvar elds og óreiðu' (2015)

Emerging from a scene consistently active far longer than most of the on-trend webzines and ten a penny, hip writers would have you believe, Misþyrming are another Icelandic troupe riding the crests of the mercilessly biting waves that have been battering the barren shores of the underground the last while.

The slightest whiff of this particular strain of Nordic gloom sees completist black metal devotees scrambling over limited-run releases and coloured vinyl peddled by zealous labels who, complete with the requisite loftiness, must surely believe all their birthdays have come at once.

On top of this, there has even been some mention that the scene's would-be godfathers, Svartidauði and Sinmara, peaked far too early, missing out on the cool factor that now wafts about Icelandic black metal. Overall, though, none of this conjecture seems to have detracted from the fact that those bands' respective full-lengths remain this particular coven's benchmark releases to date.

However, Misþyrming's 'Söngvar elds og óreiðu' is no mere addition to the Icelandic sound, wielding as it does a character-rich throb that grants its own identity, peppered with apt nods to the aforementioned scene seniors. While the record opens with a typically pummelling, abrasive onslaught that does encourage chatter about Svartidaudi similarities, Misþyrming's sound is rather less crisp; just audible amid the murk, some intelligent riffing is disappointingly lost. Whether or not this was intentional remains a mystery.

Though the record's earliest offerings labour tirelessly to engage the listener, it isn't until track five, 'Er haustið ber að garði', that Misþyrming appear to truly open up and demonstrate their own adept musicianship. Several tracks' slower sections betray a knowledge of bona fide, bass-heavy groove that works excellently to glue together the more standard proceedings, and while frenzied riffing abounds, subtle ambiances play beneath the nebulosity. Interestingly, it may also be hazarded that there are almost post-punk elements existing in some of the album's mid-tempo segments.

Business is bound together with expectedly competent yet quite standard percussion, which acts more so as buttressing, as opposed to an element with its own presence. Affairs are further underpinned by laudable attempts to conjure the malevolent spirit of Arioch/Mortuus of Funeral Mist/Marduk to aid in the choral department, making for some truly and fittingly possessed emanations from vocalist D.G.

In essence, 'Söngvar elds og óreiðu' is a substantial and layered presentation, many of those layers only revealing themselves after several digestions. Added to this, quirky interludes and a fantastically ominous outro go further yet to prove that the Icelandic cult undoubtedly knows a thing or two about crafting real black metal. This is a record well worth the absorption time.

Rating: 90%

Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Tomb Becomes a Womb

Band: Hetroertzen
Release: 'Ain Soph Aur' (2014)

One of Lamech Records' esteemed roster, Hetroertzen enjoy a certain hermetical aura that many of their contemporaries often fail to invoke. The Chilean ensemble (now located in Sweden) sound akin to a rediscovered 90's Norse black metal mix tape, dust-caked and well worn, but exuding just enough energy to blow most modern, over-embellished black metal out of the water.

Weaving about in the wake left by 2010's 'Exaltation of Wisdom', their 2014 effort - making quite a few Album of the Year lists - retains the mesmerising style of its forbear. Utilising a grandiose atmosphere created by crisper production values that lend real clarity to the instrumentation, while retaining just enough harshness, 'Ain Soph Aur' is a sanguine declaration of Hetroertzen's patent devotion.

Attention is initially drawn to proceedings with the use of clean, operatic style vocals that underpin the band's ritualistic nuances. Complete with their melody-rich, trademark serpentine and arresting riffing, complemented by wholly competent percussion that is reminiscent of the legendary Hellhammer in parts, Hetroertzen boast a special ability to transport the listener back to the aforementioned glory days of their chosen musical genre, and to some of its most hair-raising aural endeavours.

Containing over an hour of material to absorb, twelve tracks interlaced with apt samples and ambient passages, this is one of the few modern records that captures the now overused notion of ritual. Hetroertzen's live exploits are a combination of theatre and musicianship, featuring costume changes and Black Mass activities in between song performances. Amidst a stage adorned with occult practise paraphernalia, this is a band in tune with black metal's indebtedness to spectacle and symbolism.

'Ain Soph Aur' is an ambitious release, adding variations in tempo and vocal style to Hetroertzen's now characteristic sound that was undoubtedly perfected on 'Exaltation of Wisdom'. There is even some genre crossover to be discovered, as the mid-tempo offering, "The Luminous One", is surprisingly evocative of death metal Egyptologists Nile. As expected for this release, the layout, design and artwork supplementing the band's brand of ritual noise is suitably esoteric, appearing and reading like an ancient occult tome.

Despite all efforts, 'Ain Soph Aur' fails to achieve the level of intoxication that made 'Exaltation of Wisdom' so thoroughly pronounced. Even with its improved production, almost cinematic scope and willingness to experiment, it is a subordinate record, but still far superior than most of what is marketed as black metal of late.

Rating: 85%

Thursday, 1 January 2015

The Whisper of the Dead

Band: Dysangelium
Release: 'Thánatos Áskēsis' (2014)

The greatest demos ooze potential and swagger. They are self-assured, forceful declarations of intent - and when attached to relatively new acts, they can be truly unnerving. 

Released in mid-2014, the three-track 'Leviaxxis' pushed through the swathes of also-ran black metal troupes similarly vying for attention. With an approach akin to early Watain, the demo had no issue attracting recognition and building anticipation for Dysangelium's debut full-length, which was due to slither forth on a certain date ripe with implication.

To those attuned, 'Thánatos Áskēsis' may appear as nothing new or terribly fresh, but it is the approach taken by Dysangelium, complemented by a certain amount of grandstand, that levitates this release above the ever-growing Swedish black metal styled masses. Natural, discernible, echoed vocals drip with fervour and devotion. While the lyrical content may not be as developed as that presented by the likes of Deathspell Omega or Dysangelium's compatriots Ascension, it is their delivery, rounded off with arresting artwork and layout by Brianvdp, that lends a veritable sense of credibility to every track.

Mastered at Studio Emissary, a name now synonymous with class acts such as Sinmara and Svartidauði, 'Thánatos Áskēsis' is bolstered by a production that is both organic and cohesive, leaving it thoroughly accessible and never over-polished. A rumbling, dirty bass tone buttresses proceedings, integrating itself excellently within the sharp and frenzied yet melodious riff structures. The aforementioned wanton vocals, mostly a mid-level yet endlessly compelling growl, cement every minute of this release. Though percussion is competent, apt and never lost in the mix, it is quite typical of the genre and lacks any real revelation.

With its content resembling that of Chaos Omen at times, 'Thánatos Áskēsis' is a record wholly generous with its standout offerings. The varied tempos of "Words like Flames" command immersion, as do "Aries" and the spectacularly catchy "Murmura". "Chaomega", a tantalising morsel which also graced the 'Leviaxxis' demo, is an assuredly haunting track, rife with those palpable, growled vocals.

Closing track, "I Am the Witness, I Am the Servant" bursts with ardour. It is a fanatical, consuming barrage that is almost hymn-like in its definitive affirmation of faith and aspiration. Comparable to early Glorior Belli in parts, a little room is conceded to allow for effective slow to mid pace, atmosphere-laden sections before returning to the band's habitual offensive. Overall, as an inaugural full-length 'Thánatos Áskēsis' is an alluring nod to what Dysangelium have in store once their particular strain of diabolism is allowed room to breathe.

Rating: 75%