Darkness has become very dark indeed these days. Rarely is that more so than in the work of Ævangelist mastermind Matron Thorn whose black metal has been providing a cutting edge for the scene for some time now – with the emphasis on the word ‘cutting’. His main band offers fragments of utter and undisputed blackness even among some fierce competition. It’s abrasive, demanding and at times downright unpleasant listening, leaving you with very little to cling onto other than what’s left of that thing trapped inside your human form that you misguidedly choose to call a soul. But there is also something deeply wicked and glorious about it. Anyone who’s heard any of that might wonder what Death Fetishist can possibly bring and how it can compete with such an unsettling force.
But there are already clues in the list of contributors which help map out the mission before the needle hits the cavernous grooves. Because Death Fetishist is taking Matron Thorn and his collaborator, G. Nefarious from Portland, Oregon’s Panzergod, in a different direction to their other projects – although it should be pointed out that, for many people, this will still just sound like a putrid orchestra of deviant insanity. It’s difficult to know whether to feel more sorry for those who are listening to all this or those missing out – on balance, speaking as friend, I suggest you are probably better off steering clear… But, hark – members of Misþyrming and Bethlehem are among the guests and should be enough to get the more adventurous to take an interest in this release if, for some reason, the mere mention of Ævangelist was not. So what we’ve got here is some kind of experimental, gothic, S&M, volcanic black metal. Time to dive in….
Clandestine Sacrament is a foray into a bleak universe of malicious intent, flayed emotions and at times the need for a little tenacity. Tracks like Beauty from Wretchedness and Wreckage of the Flesh should be enough to give you a taste of the mood we’re in here — where normality is rejected and themes of despair, domination, submission and the occult are the order of the day. Death Fetishist has all the malicious charm of Matron Thorn’s main band but with various other strands of the black metal music scene blended in at various points – a distinct stream of swirling Northern darkness, punk rhythm and repetition, death metal and hints of the industrial music scene. Emperor or the more recent output of Nightbringer spring to mind as the snowstorm riffs rise through the thickly discordant melodies. But the presence of guest vocalist D.G. from Icelandic band Misþyrming (on third track Voidtripper) betrays a range of other influences that provides some interesting tension within Clandestine Sacrament and the no doubt make it irresistible to those who like their black metal to push boundaries even further into the void.
The discord-strewn through tracks like Astral Darkness is nothing short of cacophonous – like listening to an horrific symphony providing the asynchronous soundtrack to a demonic assault on the gates of heaven. Fans of Deathspell Omega may want to take note although this is perhaps even more wickedly and wilfully impenetrable. Jürgen Bartsch from Bethlehem takes on keyboard duties for sixth track Verbrannt im altem Moras which provides a cosmic break from the pummelling malignancy of the first half of Clandestine Sacrament before Doug Moore from technical death metallers Pyrrhon and Mories from black noise experimentalists Gnaw Their Tongues take up duties to delve further into the abyss for the final two tracks.
The punk edge to some of the tracks – the three chord repetition on Upturneth the Chalice for example – that provides a driving rhythm although which could be seen as providing just too much repetition. And while there’s so much going on in here, in many ways I can imagine some of it might sound just too flat for some to endure. But Clandestine Sacrament is still superbly done with all its black-hole impenetrability and the malignant vacuum it creates. It’s a dark trip caught somewhere between chaos and harsh ambience. Death Fetishist may just be pushing the boundaries for the sheer hell of it or perhaps provides the beacon on the edge of a scene which guides us further into the underground.
(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)