Dead To A Dying World – Elegy
Dead To A Dying World do not do anything by halves and the six members of the Texan band are joined by several more players on their third full length, giving their already bombastic sound an energy that drives it further forward into thoughtful realms. Elegy is a beautiful work that truly seeps under your skin – from the opening simplicity of “Syzygy” and Mike Yeager’s deep voice to the closing moments of the monolithic “Of Moss and Stone,” – and the record takes you on an emotional journey with a deft handle on the quiet/loud dynamic and a roster of guest appearances that serve to add dimension and clarity.
The relative serenity of the opening ode is entirely at odds with the aggressive pitch of the next track and “The Seer’s Embrace” plays Yeager’s voice against the screams of Heidi Moore and the gorgeous depth of Eva Vonne’s viola (an instrument really brought to the fore on this album) to create layers of sound that caress tenderly before snatching back any promise of safety. Each aspect of Dead To A Dying World’s sound is given space to flourish and while there are several members of the band, there are no overpowering moments to be heard – everything works in harmony, including the vocalists that have been asked to participate in the album. Emil Rapstine (The Angelus) adds a light, ethereal voice in the quieter passages that form the mid-section of the song and this voice works so well, blends so seamlessly into the band’s sound that it becomes an element that was seemingly always there.
Elegy brings in more of these additional vocalists to add texture to an already impressive work and in the shorter songs we find their voices giving Dead To A Dying World a richer tone than they have previously possessed. “Vernal Equinox” brings in Jarboe (she also features on the closing song) while “Hewn from Falling Water” sees Rapstine and Bell Witch’s Dylan Desmond harmonise over gorgeous acoustic guitars, folk melodies and a clarinet played by Swans Thor Harris.
“Empty Hands, Hollow Hymns” finds Yeager’s deep bellows and Moore’s blackened screams surrounded by frantic drums and sorrowful viola while guitars push the melody further into aggressive territory. The song itself courses with understated melancholy and while there is a definite sadness to be found here, it never tips over into the hysterical and instead flows beautifully into doomier, slower moments that are sparked with elegance.
The folk elements of “Hewn from Falling Water” inform the beginning moments of “Of Moss and Stone” and give a sense of continuity, that this is an album meant to be taken as a whole and experienced fully. Dead To A Dying World play with the silence for a short time before the song bursts into life and Yeager and Moore’s voices curl around each other, giving and taking life from the other and breathing fire into the song. Vonne’s viola adds gloomy textures to the proceedings and the funereal style is one that fits beautifully into the cascading structures of the song.
The heightened moments of heaviness are always tempered by movements of serenity and where that dynamic is clearly followed in the pacing of the album, it is also present in the songs and in this final track the dramatic punch is followed by Jarboe’s choral vocal before Yeager and Moore take the reins back and drive home the anger that pins Dead to A Dying World’s music to reality – searching for answers, for hope, for life.
Listen and purchase here.
Mephorash – Shem Ha Mephorash
There’s something to be said for a band evolving and taking the time to hone their sound and for Sweden’s Mephorash that certainly seems to be the case – their last full length saw the light four years ago and an EP from 2018 gave us a taste of what was to come. Beginning in 2010 the band took on the orthodox black metal tones of their peers and doing so failed to light the world on fire – their music was a little “heard it all before” and it wasn’t until 2015’s 1557 – Rites of Nullification that they truly hit their stride and landed upon an identity of their own. Mephorash are a young band and despite now being four full lengths into their career, they are only in their mid-twenties, and initial missteps as teenagers are something we can all be found guilty of.
Thankfully, Mephorash have developed into a band that has something interesting to offer and on Shem Ha Mephorash they take black metal and filter it through a distinctly ecclesiastical lens; choirs, bells, lyrics that speak of Abrahamic religions and ritual – it is a record that has been researched and informed by teachings of old and is something to be respected for its legitimacy.
“King of Kings, Lord of Lords” starts this journey on hugely dynamic tones that pay homage to hymns in its progression and ramps up tension in repetition; the guitars, voices and choral vocals (the band have three vocalists who each bring levels of drama to the record) move up in register to create an all-encompassing sound and there is a richness to the production that gives warmth to the music – this is not a cold, icy work but rather one bathed in fire.
Shem Ha Mephorash moves in differing tones of aggression with “Chant of Golgotha,” less a prayer and more a call to arms and it flows seamlessly (the latter motions of each song segue easily into the next, giving the record a more complete feel and it’s necessity to being heard as a whole piece of music rather than broken into sections) into “Epitome I: Bottomless Infinite.” The use of female/angelic choral arrangements comes to the fore in this song and while it’s a tactic that is slightly overused at times it does serve the album well for the most part.
The transition into “Sanguinem” is as flawless as ever and the song moves from angelic choirs into something much darker that offers up the soul in supplication to a higher power. For Mephorash that higher power could be seen as a God (perhaps one of their own making) and is one that demands your essence in return for protection, yet the price that must be paid is more than just your blood – the fallen ones will always come to collect what is due.
The labyrinthian passages of sound that comprise “Epitome II: The Amrita of Vile Shapes” form ritual messages and the lyrics are esoterica at its best – Mephorash have dug deep for this record and its obvious in the performances that this is something personal for them and that this is a band that have grown from their early days as orthodox black metal fans into something much more spiritual.
“Shem Ha Mephorash” closes out the album on grandiose and vivid tones that impress on you the absolute truth of the words uttered within. Mephorash are using ancient keys to unlock the secrets of the Gods and they call to you in the darkness, promising light for blood. Passages of deep, resonant guitar sparks off chanted vocal lines, guttural howls and rasping screams, each vocal style brings a different dimension to the song and each key change adds more to the layers of drama already present. The song is furious in its execution and for Mephorash it’s a fitting finale to a record that is laced with cinematic moments and masterful mystery. Praise the bringers of light.
Listen and purchase here.
Mesarthim – Ghost Condensate
Australia’s Mesarthim are an entity that hide behind the stars – their names are not known and their music is cosmic black metal at its finest. The duo that formed the band in 2015 have been incredibly prolific in the short time they have been active and arrived with little fanfare for a record that saw their black metal/trance collaboration come to fruition. Fast forward to 2019 and with three previous full lengths and at least six EPs under their proverbial belts, the band have arrived at their shining moment. Ghost Condensate is an amalgamation of years of hard work, honing and perfecting and the two tracks on display here (both clocking in at exactly twenty minutes) are coherent and majestic and sorrowful and bright all at once.
Vocals are screamed into the void while the instrumentation is deftly rendered and the electronic elements are woven into the fabric of each song with aplomb. The dance beats are evident throughout the songs yet they do not overwhelm the blackened tapestry of the work, rather they enhance and give an alien aspect to the metal on show. Mesarthim have long been purveyors of the electronic beat and on “Ghost Condensate I” they add rhythm and texture to the song, each synthesised note giving life and bringing to the fore an out of this world affectation.
The climbing guitars are divinely rich and the song benefits from moving from one section to another with ease with bridging moments allowing a small space for breath before Mesarthim pull you further into the cosmos with screams that are rendered through the DSBM lens and so lend a feeling of utter hopelessness to the songs yet the brightness of some of the synth/key passages shine some light onto what could otherwise be a very morose work.
“Ghost Condensate II” is a slightly slower proposition at first with a doomier texture than the previous track and the synths sitting a little further behind the guitars during the initial moments. There’s a definite sense of weight to the song and the slight dissonance of the first minutes set up the powerful rush of vocals that kick in after three minutes. Occasionally, during songs, you hit a section that stops you in your tracks and it’s those moments that magic is created. For Mesarthim this begins with a relative period of quiet around seven minutes in which soon gives way to symphonic black metal sounds that cascade into the darkness and feed into harsh vocals and gorgeous chiming, keys.
Ghost Condensate spins into the outer reaches of space from beginning to end and is a record that deserves close attention. Mesarthim may have arrived on this earth with little behind them but the legacy they leave will be enormous.
Listen and purchase here.