Having read great things about these guys in several online publications I checked them online just out of curiosity, and I was surprised to find something quite different from what I expected (for some reason, I thought this would be on a more melodic side of things). Although seeing this was released by Fallen Empire, I shouldn't have had many doubts about neither the music nor the quality of it. Adding to it that the bands line-up is composed of two expertised musicians such as Alex Poole (Chaos Moon, Esoterica and since some years ago member of Krieg) and D.G. (Misþyrming, Nadra), could I expect anything bad or minimally interesting?
What Skaphe offer us on 'Skáphe²', their second LP, is an absolute maelstrom of chaos, darkness and insanity under the form of six quite long tracks of fully reverb induced Black Metal which doesn't go very far from what the Iceland scene has been showing us in the last times, although on an even most demented side of things. This means some hybrid between the most chilling and psychotic side of Black Metal, next to some prominent doses of an inexorable brutality that comes straight from the most suffocating extremes of Death Metal. With a preference for fast paced/fully blasting progressions, but still having a few very slow and surrounding moments.
Indeed, the atmosphere of this record is extremely suffocating (I need to insist on this because it's the best way to describe it) and trance/nightmare inducing, sometimes even brainmelting-like, and the mix of very chaotic and brutal riffing and drumming, with the already mentioned high dose of reverb, results in a constantly increasing ball of hatred and obscurity,which still manages to create a chilling and kind of sick ambiance thanks to the ripping melodies and mind-altering disharmonies, which are (very) inspired by none other than Deathspell Omega and Aosoth, but which makes me think about how Teitanblood could have sounded if they dwelved into these realms (especially on a vocal level). All this results (and this is the most interesting part of it) in making you loose the sense of orientation and leave your body behind without too many efforts, like your conscience had been stripped-off it and thrown into the sonic whirlwind they create, in large part thanks to a production which quite often makes you think they lost control of things, although you know very well how deliberate and conscious the decision of taking it to the extreme was.
A very well crafted and intense experience. Not specially original, although exceptionally well written, executed and recorded.
Four years ago, during a trip to London, I bought the second album of these Belgian gentlemen, entitled 'Morinde'. It was an (almost) completely blind acquisition (next to Necro Deathmort's 'The Colonial Script') after briefly reading some very positive commentaries about their music. And I must admit for once I did the right thing following others opinions. Their hybrid of super filthy Sludge/Doom and the rawest brand of Black Metal worked very well and managed to drown me into their terribly disgusting universe quite easily.
So just two months ago I accidentally discovered they had just released a new album, with an amazingly un-kvlt orange cover, which was handled again by Consouling Sounds (a label who has been supporting other bands from their country such as Amenra, Gnaw Their Tongues or Wiegedood, among others) and I felt forced to get it as soon as possible.
First surprise, what they offer us on these 39 minutes divided between 5 different tracks is, without any doubt, the most intense, hypnotic and straight stuff they have recorded up to this date. In fact, the first time I played the vinyl I suddenly realized I had arrived to the end of the record and hadn't found too many references to Sludge or Doom, preferring in this occasion to take a closer approach to their pure Black Metal influences, with some hints of a small dose of occasional extra heaviness here and there. (Very) Big presence of the bass, with some amazingly progressive lines, chainsaw guitars with a very old-school vibe and a lot of blastbeats, next to a completely demented demon on the vocals.
But do not be afraid, the filth is still there, the nauseous atmosphere too, and their trance-like way of capturing the listener remains untouched, just in a faster and more diabolical approach, somewhere in the middle of good old Von and the first Mayhem, depending on the balance between monotonous riffs and evil melodies, in order to tell you the bizarre story of the demon you can see farting on the cover across a swamp full of evil creatures, which is depicted in the inside of the gatefold in a series of vignettes like a comic (weird and very cool).
Apart from the slight stylistic change, what makes 'Lede' as atmospheric, nasty and inmediately catchy as it is is the fact that they have managed to get an even more suitable production than the one they had on 'Morinde', Again, they chose to record it live (thou with a different guy this time, Frederik Segers) and, again, they sent it Tom Kvålsvoll, the Norwegian master of mastering (yeah, that's a lot of mastery), to capture every single detail and annoying noise of their offering to chaos so you and me can feel completely lacerated every time we spin this piece of vinyl.
Something's happening in Belgium, Lugubrum are becoming better and better and Alkerdeel are their closest competitors. Someone should think about convincing them on doing a split record.
Gia Thanatos is a webzine dedicated to music for the apocalyptic times. No matter the scene or genre it comes from, and mainly chosen according to its author's taste.