totalitarian – de arte tragoediae divinae (2017)

i passed march and april without a decent find. that made me question the idea of an endless abyss of awesome black metal releases. that is until i came across totalitarian. their sole release “de arte tragoediae divinae”, which just came out last week, is a behemoth of an artwork that instantly commands the listener’s full attention. totalitarian is another seemingly obscure band / one person project that hails from rome, italy, from where noticeably few good black metal comes, to be fair. yes, fides inversa is good.

the work at hand as a whole feels like a bad trip, a hellish phantasmagoria, a nightmare of sorts, rather than music, with notes, passages, bridges, singing, riffs etc. and the main point is the effective creation of the horrid, claustrophobic and hypnotic dark atmosphere. totalitarian delivers. right from the start of their career. this is no lo-fi / buzzed debut. this is masterfully composed, played and produced doom/death/black metal beauty.

the basis of the hypnosis is laid down by constant repetition of one or two main themes throughout each song. you have really rare variation and after a while you lose track of any scale or progression. obviously done on purpose, this commands the immersion of the listener, ever deeper into the dark, gloomy, hellish, horrid… landscape painted right before your eyes. you have the (quite) down-tuned riffing, complemented by deafening thick basslines. you have both guttural death and wailing black metal singing full of reverb, buried deep under the soundscape. there’s the constant pounding and punishing drums, frequently on battle mode. a bit industrial too, and me likey. somehow reminds me of n.k.v.d. and irkallian oracle. on top of that is the careful execution of sound effects to add further layers of dirt upon the poor listener.

the album opens up in excruciatingly slow tempo, and that scale is revisited throughout the album but when the tempo picks up, and it does, such as in the blast-beat filled second and third tracks, that’s when the going gets rough. the fourth track is the eye of the storm. with the main theme repeating hundreds of times, over battle drums, the thick fog of confusion and punishment reaches its pinnacle, giving way to the slowly fading away closing track.

totalitarian clearly have a certain idea and direction of an oppressive, commanding hypnosis, delving deep into black metal horror and presenting ear-numbing atmospheric excellence. i just hope they keep presenting the goods.

caïna – christ clad in white phosphorus (2016)

another couple of weeks passed by with a cranky mood, listening to and not liking a number of albums, until finally… i came across caïna’s latest full-length “christ clad in white phosphorus”, which came out just 2 days ago, and it pinned me down my chair. behemoth of an album, completely cold, chaotic, lifeless and extremely heavy on the ears. the ear assaulting sound reminds of ulver’s black metal masterpiece nattens madrigal on songs and einstürzende neubauten-esque (though much angrier) industrial noise on interludes. so generous on the treble, the guitars and the shrieking vocals rip through your ear canals. the manic moments of blast-beat filled songs also reminded me of antaeus madness. a mention for the drum work is also in place, for masterfully setting the pace through all this thick mud. the british mastermind andrew curtis-brignell seems to be accompanied by a vocalist and a bass player on this album, contrary to the previous ones in which he did (almost) all the work.

through all that inaccessible wall of chaos, fury and industrial ear-attack though, caïna delivers so much material, artful variation and many ideas. the instrumental opener, completely void of any sympathy or any regard to an organic feel, tries to prepare the listener to what’s to come. which is a tough job, considering the second track “torture geometry” explodes with such unprecedented fury, with the signature over-the-top loud noise and industrial structure. noise and music begin to merge with the third track, “fumes of god”, while just as hostile, includes more layers of keyboards, followed by a lengthy interlude mostly of discomforting noise effects. then comes the oddball “gazing on the quantum megalith”, punk-infused and groovy, yet maintaining the uneasy and inorganic feel. after two more heavy songs intertwined with mad blast beats and keyboard/noise passages comes the highlight “pillars of salt”, a surprising jazz-drum attack. madness ensues with the 8th track, probably the most nordic black metal sounding song with delightful tremolo. after the 12-minute long interlude of spoken word and noise, the closer, “christ clad in white phosphorus” is a black metal take on synth-pop.

it is just amazing the amount of unorthodox and even controversial material, that fits so masterfully in one album, while maintaining the uncompromising, industrial and inorganic feel. however, all this experimentation and variation results in the lack of continuation and coherence but i highly doubt if he cares. the album is quite inaccessible yet so rewarding once you plunge into it. and the madness takes you to places.