Desecresy: Unveil in the Abyss
Out 19th April on Xtreem Music
Desecresy’s discography is a joy to look at on Metal Archives. Seven albums and zero EPs, splits, demos, compilations, live recordings, or other gumph. Not to slag off the 99.99% of artists out there who by choice or circumstance have not restricted themselves to the LP format, but the clarity and simplicity of the Desceresy approach, which has seen them release an album consistently almost every two years since 2010 has become one of the few constants in my life.
Desecresy are one of those artists that found a distinctive niche for themselves very early on, and have deviated little from this formula ever since. Plodding, mid-paced death metal which structurally has more in common with minimalist industrial, owing to the rhythmically persistent percussive riffing philosophy. Melodic material is found in simple lead guitar refrains that – instead of offering up a tapestry of riffs by which to build a composition – instead circle round repeated licks or half formed ideas that echo out of the chugging, atonal rhythm section with strangely unpredictable menace, all supplemented by their trademark chasmic production values. Modern caverncore finds a recent superior precursor in this unlikely marriage of Bolt Thrower and Black Funeral
This is an idiosyncratic way of crafting death metal, reliant on repetition, subtle yet linear rhythmic manipulation, and a minimalist philosophy, features more typically considered the remit of black metal, which only served to make Desecresy all the more anomalous. But given the breadth of material they have offered in the style, the creeping spectre of laurel resting began to lurk behind this entity. ‘Unveil in the Abyss’ out this April, serves to answer these concerns however.
For an experimental incrementalist such as Desecresy, this album is the perfect mix of develop whilst maintaining a firm anchor in the key identifiers that makes their style so unmistakable. Structurally, compositionally, technically, little has changed. Pounding mid-paced rhythms hammer out of the speakers with simple, Bolt Thrower style chugging riffs filling out the mix, enveloping the listener in a mechanical wall of sound. Lead guitars jump out at frequently reliable intervals, adding harmonic complexity and tension when required, and fleshing out the doom laden atmosphere. Guttural vocals swagger forth with renewed confidence, bottoming out the mix with agreeable jeopardy.
So what’s new? It’s a similar feeling engendered by Hate Forest’s ‘Hour of the Centaur’. A well established artist with an unmistakable style releasing an album specifically designed not to rock the boat too hard. One is liable to be called out for phoning it in by lazily hitting all the familiar beats dictated by audience expectations. But then something happens. On putting the tracks together, writing, performing, arranging, mixing and mastering them, the artist gains a newfound love of their craft, one that is immediately discernible at the other end by us, the listener, in the finished product.
It’s as if they have suddenly rediscovered why they love what they do, and this love shines forth in every sinew of the music. Desecresy have offered by and large the same format we have heard six times before. But on ‘Unveil in the Abyss’ the production is beefed up, the drums sound fatter, the bass is weightier, the guitar tone richer, the focus on dark warmth rather than the previous mechanical and somewhat tinny aesthetic. But beyond this, the performances and compositions themselves present with renewed fluidity, demonstrative of an artist truly enjoying what they do, and allowing the music to flow out of them with ease.
This is the sound I have always wanted to hear beneath the Desecresy formula. And although there’s no denying that they have previously delivered on their promise of minimalist, atmospheric death metal, here their vision seems to have suddenly come to life with renewed vigour.
Evocator: Ancient Cataclysm
Out 15th April, self-released
Combining violent and dissonant death/doom with a Candlemass-esque ability to weave profound grandiose theatre with conviction and believability, the debut LP from Sweden’s Evocator strikes all the right notes. Death doom with hints of the depressive is liable to become stale territory at times. But Evocator mange to refresh this formula by combining wanton abrasion with some much needed melodic and timbral range, alongside a vocal performance that doesn’t shy away from committing to the melodrama of the moment.
Following a promising EP In ‘Chronicles of Pestilence’ released in 2021, ‘Ancient Cataclysm’ raises the stakes afforded by the longform format, both in terms of compositional ambition and the undeniably beefed up presentation. The production is full-bodied. A broad sonic picture is allowed to unfold before our eyes. Although the guitars dominate, they touch on a diverse range of emotive and textural colourings throughout. From harsh dissonance, to dramatic ascending melodies, to repetitive refrains fraught with tension, to moments of clarity and calm via clean arpeggios. All rendered through richly layered motifs made possible by the clarity of the mix.
Vocals veer wildly from aggressive mid-range death growls, to operatic clean singing blended with distortion, to low-end chanting, and a whole range of other techniques deployed to add theatre and intensity to the performance that serves both the epic nature of the music and the immersive cinema of the listening experience.
Drums are maybe a little quiet beneath this centrepiece, but make their presence felt nonetheless. Despite the requisite slower tempos, Evocator imbue their music with an unrelenting sense of momentum, and the drums are key to achieving this, mixing mid-paced funeral marches with driving double bass, clattering fills that make full use of the crash cymbal’s inherent dramatic qualities, and by constantly refreshing the emphasis of the beat.
This last is an effective tool for any doom artist with the imagination to add energy and urgency without falling back on predictable speed thrills to break up the tempo. Too often doom metal drummers hit hard and cover all in reverb in the hope that this will fill out the mix without giving much thought to the actual patterns and their interaction with the spaces between each chord afforded by the slower tempos. Through some simple yet creative switches one can bring the drama to life at the music’s beating heart.
‘Ancient Cataclysm’ is – as the name suggests – a four part epic that reaches back to pre-Christian mythology in order to unfold hard hitting narrative tales of decline. Despite this, there is a cyclical subtext to all four pieces that speaks of recurrence, as if we are doomed to follow in the footsteps of those before us. The choice of minor key progressions alongside dissonance grants the pieces a sense of inevitability, atop the circling nature of the central guitar refrains sits a progression toward ultimate annihilation.
This theme is hammered home so relentlessly by Evocator that the smallest break into up-tempo, nihilistic atonality feels like a relief when sandwiched inside these relentlessly drab epics. But this also allows Evocator to retain the intensity of the music without overwhelming the listener in monotony. For all its immediate aggression and energy, ‘Ancient Cataclysm’ is a work of subtle arrangement and contrast as much as it is a high drama, epic death/doom album.
Vomito Vacuo: Locura y un cuerpo
Out 19th April, self-released
The debut EP from this Chilean black doom outfit is an unsettling brew of stilted juxtapositions. Riffs seem to build momentum only to abandon it mid-bar for the sake of a ringing chord or unfolding scale run of nothing but modulations. Stylistically it borrows heavily from North American traditions in Black Funeral, Profanatica, and maybe some Demoncy, but with greater emphasis on connecting up and developing contrasting guitar lines and clashing keys.
The production is oddly subdued. One can hear the frantic musicianship, but all is muffled in a cloak of muted darkness. Drums offer a tight and varied performance of rhythmic framing, interrupting the pace of the music and forcing it into new and uncomfortable directions with a moments notice. The guitar tone embodies that emphasis on bass that the likes of Paul Ledney values so much in black metal. Vocals are a distant yet passionately ghoulish wail of blackened distortion, finding the right balance between chaos and control that serves this form of ritualistic black metal so well.
Keyboards are also put to work here, most notably on the track ‘He muerto con un grito ahogado por mi propia moral’, where they take on the role of jaunty marching band, working through bombastic brass segments which, when colliding with the dissonance of the ponderous, stop/start blackened thrash riffs, is frankly utterly horrifying. The very definition of juxtaposition, each contrasting element marries up in a way that works from a theoretical perspective, but in listening to the finished product it results in a new dimension of terror far more compelling than similar ritualistic black metal acts focused solely on the traditional occultist horror aesthetic.
The closing number ‘Quien comprende el nombre más complejo’ achieves a similar result by contrasting euphoric and hopeful synths and clean guitars alongside the nihilistic doom of the riff backbone. The result is music that seems to constantly promise a degree of hope or catharsis but beneath the surface has nothing but void to offer. This is a refreshing and imaginative use of black metal’s currently unhealthy addiction to sentiment and comfort. Originally a common feature of early “post” black metal, it is now a staple of many modern iterations of the form. Although traditional black metal did not shy away from overworked emotiveness within the context of epic fantasy, Vomito Vacuo’s manipulation of these tropes is undeniably refreshing.
Theatrical horror is blended with the blunt simplicity of synthetic keyboards, each working in competing emotive fields to bring this caricature of modernistic black metal styles to term. Jarring transitions, sudden tonal swaps, elongated scale runs defined by uncertainty of resolution, to riffs that build up momentum only to be cut down midway through by the angular drumming. All serve to make ‘Locura y un cuerpo’ an original carnival of psychological torments for both our musical sensibilities and our sense of truth and lie. It warps our perspective on reality, plays with our expectations, and fearlessly twists musical convention into freshly tortured and stretched formations.
What should we make of the nearly exact replication of artwork from Chasmic Transcendence on the cover of Unveil in the Abyss? I’m still waiting on my copy of the album, so I haven’t listened yet.
Which Desecresy songs would you consider to use the sonata form?
Not a clue. But that part on Staring of the Infinity where the cymbals go “tat tat tat tat tat tat tat tat tat” fucking chugs bro.