Sunday, 25 January 2015
The Tomb Becomes a Womb
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.