“I look forward to next instalment from this extreme and alternative band” was how I signed off “Prelude to Apocalypse” (2012). Well, the Apocalypse has arrived in the form of this 79 minute work by the Slovakian-Polish duo comprising Abbey ov Thelema. Light and airy is not within their repertoire. No band that could release a work called “Supreme Pseudomaterialistic Spirituality Meets the Ultimate Neothelemic Khaosophy … and Other Heterodox Methods and Practices” (2013) could ever be accused of understatement. Now “Liber DCLXVI” is once again brash and experimental as it embarks upon a concept based on the Apocalypse as described in the Revelation of John. “Chaotic, arrhythmic and disharmonic, yet full of orchestra and synths” is the way founder member Delgrast describes the music.
Hearing this is like being re-united with a demented friend. Words like avant-garde and experimental, or even extreme don’t do it justice. Distorted, anarchic and ghastly sounds with roots in black metal surround us, but not in coherent form. As “De Apocalypse Ioannis” swoops down, I had the sense that a warlord in a large cloak is going to envelop us. Walls come crashing down. It’s got a modern touch like being in an arcade but the game machines have a twisted mind of their own. You and I are there. Our brain is being rocketed uncontrollably from side to side. I vaguely sense structure but of strange forms. Mechanical electronic sounds rumble on. There is a sinister and mentally disturbing synth piece. “De Septem Signis et Septem Salpinibus” starts majestically like symphonic black metal. Dark voices screech as the musical anarchy continues. It is shapeless and horrible. It’s grotesque like a fun fair without the fun and all the horror. A single sinister piano tone is struck up and we enter into another phase. Inevitably it smacks of death. It comes from another planet. Chaos and decadence erupt as the black formlessness continues in its distinctly unnerving way. Here and there something recognisable emerges – about 10 seconds of jazz and a drawn out passage which could have its roots in the music of Mayhem. The vocalist croaks his way through the turbulence. There can only be catastrophe. An unholy chorus leads to buzzing distortions and a chaotic end.
Rolling clouds of blackness envelop us but in unconventional form. It should come as no surprise that a new twist develops: an attractive line of black folk metal with strains of yodelling voices, accordion and oom-pa-pa. Those dark clouds return and Abbey ov Thelema imprint more ghastliness on our psyche. Pompous, militaristic and symphonic black metal, unquestionably Eastern European in sound but also loosely reminiscent of Limbionic Art, Devilish Impressions and Carach Angren, impose themselves upon us in “De Condemnatione Magnae Babyon”, delightfully supported in the extravagant and informative sleeve artwork by the painting “The Crowned and Conquering Cunt”. Ghastly mutterings of sufferance can be heard. The music then expands into the customary darkness and chaos. The organ player has a ball as the fairground becomes bloodshed and horrific. Then from outer space come indistinct sounds and rising majesty. There’s a soundtrack feel about this. It’s grossly unpleasant, mind, with its cascading discordant sounds of destruction and belligerence. The cascading continues cacophonously as this weighty album moves to the snappily-titled “De Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia”. It’s ok. We’re never going to sing along to this. It’s about withstanding the assault. Now we’re confronted with an insane but back-to-front electro beat and all the screams and horror you could wish for. We’re then taken woozily onto another dark planet. The drum bangs ominously. Funereal doom emerges. This is music from the graveyard. We hear the sounds of a suffering crowd and eternal humming. A guitar plays a tune. “De Conclusione Saeculi” is 20 minutes long, and works its way through a series of terrible scenes. The sound seems to be coming from a dark chasm. The atmosphere is of discordant despair and cacophonous chaos. This sums up “Liber DCLXVI”. There is symphonic blackness, then a combination of the piano and acoustic guitar has a calming effect, but there is gunfire. The sounds of war are in the background. The ominous tones of the synthesiser take us forward but only to a scene of windswept devastation. This is music for distorted minds as the dark symphony strikes up. As the dark thunder of “De Conclusione Saeculi” develops in its off-the-wall fashion, there is still time for melancholy, even in the pompous overbearing manner which represents eternal anarchy and chaos. Moods change but Abbey ov Thelema complete their expression and in spite of all this turbulence and transformation, each piece manages to have completeness.
There is almost too much for one album here. There’s no holding back in the music, the creativity or presentation of the concept. “Liber DCLXVI” is utterly overwhelming. Rooted in the black metal of Central and Eastern Europe, this intense and apocalyptically colourful album puts others to shame. Abbey ov Thelema relegate the likes of Anaal Nathrakh and Zyklon to the children’s section. Every track is a complete work in itself. Abbey ov Thelema have been building up to this from “A Fragment ov the Great Work” (2011). Here it’s as if the duo have exhausted every weird and extreme thought they’ve had. But somehow I think we haven’t heard the last of them.
(9/10 Andrew Doherty)