”All great things must first wear terrifying and monstrous masks in order to inscribe themselves on the hearts of humanity.”
This review begins with a contemplation of the above mentioned quote by Nietzsche; a statement which accompanies the album. If we look into the past and assess the horrific pursuits of humanity, we will find that there is a discernible amount of truth behind these words. The hideous nature of the human brain’s lust for achieving something greater for itself has led him on the path of self destruction and chaos. Our feebleness and senility has often compelled ourselves to ascertain the nature of truth and existence and this quest for higher wisdom and power has made us to commit abhorrent acts to achieve transcendence, both mental and physical.
Svartidauði have tried to conceptualize this idea through their ideological and sonic prowess exhibited on the grand opus ”Flesh Cathedral”. It chronicles years of meditative abuse of body and mind in an attempt to attain spiritual divinity and decadence. The origin of this Icelandic band, whose name means ”The Black Death” dates back to 2002 and they released three demo’s and a split prior to their highly awaited debut full length which will be jointly released by Daemon Worship Productions in North America and Terratur Possesions in Europe. While these demos had cleared the band’s intention of delivering high caliber black metal, Flesh Cathedral is an evident step up in the band’s progression as song writers.
It consists of four destructive psalms, out of which two have been previously heard on their 2010 demo ”Those Who Crawl and Slither Shall Again Inherit the Earth”. Each of these psalms are well over ten minutes in length which unravels nightmarish tales, spoken in bestial tongues and initiate a hallucinating atmosphere which envelopes chaotic convulsions all around. The dense and cacophonous guitar sections narrate these psychoactive sacraments in a profound way, while juxtaposing chaotic dissonance and atmospheric, mid-paced melodies together. Constructing progressive and epic length compositions is not an easy task to undertake and many bands fail at achieving a ‘mood’ or memorability while attempting to do so. However, the twin guitar attack of Þórir and Nökkvi on the album is successful in achieving the essence of instrumental intricacy while being extremely impactful. The sound of the guitars somehow reminds me of Þórir’s other project ‘Chao’, hence giving me an idea that he could be the chief architect of these apocalyptic sounds. I am often reminded of the brilliance of Deathspell Omega’s instrumental proficiencies while assessing these numinous ideas which are on display here. Even though the inspiration might be evident to my ears, I can also sense a honest sense of craftsmanship which has tried to elevate pre-existing ideas to a newer domain. This is another factor which makes them stand apart from other acts in the ‘scene’.
The orator of this ensemble, Sturla Viðar has deployed ominously deep and almost death metal style gutturals to annunciate the horrific tales of dread and despair unlike the typical high pitched shrieks employed in black metal. Well, this was a necessary step to enhance the heavy, down tuned sound of the guitars and create a perfect combination of both the departments. He also handles the bass duties in the band and brings in another pivotal element to their sound as there are individual bass lines to be heard along with the rhythms. But it’s the stellar drumming of Magnús which brings a sense of completeness in these intricate and almost labyrinthine passages constructed by the strings. I am very fond of the drum sound on the album as it sounds organic and dynamic. The toms, snare and kick have a crunchy sound and they are utilized wittily on the album. Since the guitar rhythms and leads are complex and progressive in nature, it was important for the drummer to bring his own terrifying and bombastic element to support them and he did not fail in doing so. The constant crashing of the cymbals during the blast beat sections, fills and rolls on the mid paced parts and double kicks are a delight to listen. The mixing and mastering has been done suavely to provide individual definition to each instrument, while making the overall sound extremely cohesive and almost phantasmagoric. There are hardly any evident flaws to be traced, no matter how hard you try and this is certainly a huge quality for a ‘debut’ album.
I can easily proclaim that ”Flesh Cathedral” is one finest release this year as it marks a new dawn in the annals of black metal, a musical style which has been evolving constantly, thanks to artists like Svartidauði. Each composition revels in a grotesque semblance which is meticulously carved and paints pictures of an impending doom and self destruction. This canvas metamorphoses itself with several emotions and weaves a hypnotic nimbus which is sure to stamp its impress on the minds of those who are willing to enrapture themselves with the grandeur of this colossal creation. Start counting the days and await the release of this essential gem which is going to pulverize the feeble foundations of the underground with panache.
”Cross the borders of nightmares…
…venture into the sphere of whorrors…
…enter the Flesh Cathedral.”
01 Sterile Seeds
02 The Perpetual Nothing
03 Flesh Cathedral
04 Psychoactive Sacraments