Did Deathspell Omega realise the festering demon they had spawned all those years ago when they spewed forth Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum? Even now that avant-garde and, if I can use this ugly and inexact sub-genre description, un-orthodox black metal masterpiece, feels like the pinnacle of a certain lurching, stomach-churning sound that feels even more ugly and aggressive than much of what went before.
A decade on (the anniversary is July this year) and it still feels like it may have been much equalled if never quite outdone. But there is no shortage of takers for this ultimate challenge, it seems. Step forward Baden-Württemberg’s Voidcraeft – whose impressive Ἕβελ sounds like the sort of artistic ordeal I would happily forgo in exchange for nailing a testicle to an oaken table (not something I would enjoy, for those of you in any doubt).
Let me explain. After four months re-reading the New Testament and Hebrew Bible, with occasional reference to the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic sources, devout atheist قرف – yes, that’s right, قرف, set about writing Ἕβελ with all its lyrics in Biblical Hebrew and Biblical Greek. As you flick between Ave Noctum, your favourite porn site and the kettle for the odd cuppa to entertain you as you while away your pointless mortal days, you may well ask: “What, in the name of all one-man-black-metal-bands was the point in that?”
Apart from showing off, I suppose قرف has a point (and yes, I am beginning to feel a little silly copying and pasting that). The point, or at least my interpretation of his point, is that there are so many references to the bible, both casual and deep, in Western life, that having some knowledge of the original meaning could provide us with some ammunition against the more bullshit-inclined theologians out there who seek to blind us with their own biblical interpretation and which appear to be taking back ground won by atheist and secular societies over the second half of the last century.
Great – but what about the music, I hear you say? Well, Voidcraeft (let’s just call him that from now on) is fairly prolific. And when you hear an album like Ἕβελ you can’t help hearing an explosion of consciousness as much as assault on your cerebral cortex of the Deathspell Omega kind. Formerly independent and now shacked up, appropriately enough, with I, Voidhanger Records, this was launched digitally last year and now gets a hard-copy release this month. You can see why this has been snapped up. There’s great talent here and superb intensity even though it takes a little time to time to warm up and prove it is building on all that has gone before rather than following.
Ἕβελ has less of the exploration that has come from the avant-garde brigade as the pure blast of uncompromising and dense sound thrown in your face. But eventually the death metal-laced adrenaline charge of tracks like I Wound and I Heal (third track – I’ll spare the original translation because it’s playing havoc with my clipboard) begins to pierce into your brain as Voidcraeft begins to fuck with your consciousness through shifting tempos and tantalisingly catchy, sliding riffs. Dig deep into Drunkenness And Sorcery and you might even begin to understand the Jupiter-like gravity that Voidcraeft is creating here.
After hearing the latest outings from VI, Ævangelist, Imperial Triumphant and Outre there are some pretty solid contenders for bands either crystallizing this kind of sound even further into darker realms (Ævangelist), cranking up the sheer, sickening evil (Imperial Triumphant) or imbuing it with more energy (VI and Outre). Of these the most similar is probably VI – and Ἕβελ certainly shares some of the same unsettled Deathspell-on-speed hyperactivity of last year’s De Praestigiis Angelorum.
Voidcraeft (read his interesting and even humorous essay Intolerance and Stagnation on his website (link below) if any of this appeals) shuffles nicely into that crowd with an album that crackles with the energy and the delight and excitement of discovery. Seventh track On the Bones of the Dead might even be a contender to challenge the might of De Praestigiis Angelorum (which made number 2 on my “Best Of” list for 2015).
Perhaps the only drawback of this is that is sometimes feels a little linear when you get the feeling that Voidcraeft has the talent to make something truly awe inspiring if he took a step back from his compulsive work ethic. In his own analysis, Voidcraeft says he’s only ‘moderately pleased’ with Ἕβελ but concedes it has ‘catchy lyrics’. I would argue that he might be underselling the music and overselling the lyrics there. Because this is an intense and chaotic thrill ride that at times feels like watching a video of a man trying to wrestle a lively snake into a bag, played at quadruple speed, and at others like a doomed charge by the malcontents of the underworld on the walls of heaven. Compelling, chaotic and teetering on the borders of blissful insanity.
(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)