I’m always wary whenever I see term “avant-garde” applied to a band. This is the case with Russia’s Lashblood. It doesn’t take long on this follow-up to the band’s debut album “Philosophy of Self-Flagellation: Being and Nothing” (2012). A withering riff with a vocalist whose emissions sound like a crackling fire is just half of it. Before long it’s off piste with disharmonious and strange sounds contributing to a ghastly atmosphere. The vocalist delivers utterances manically, and a saxophonist intervenes with a tragic tune. The intensity and violence creep up, and from “Frenzy” we head into another monstrous blackened death piece “Slow Snow”. Thrashing power and frenetic drumming lead to extremity. You can’t fault the energy of this. Twisty rhythms make a brief appearance as Lashblood drive remorselessly on. It’s cold, dark and sinister and there’s no time to take breath, as screams and atmospherically-inclined harsh violence. The world they depict is not a place that anyone would want to be. The comparison base is Dodheimsgard and Arcturus. This is a Russian version of it.

“The Name of My Melancholy” definitely has a Norwegian air about it. Cold, insistent and punishing, it drags you in with its repetitive and scornful riff. Well, for four minutes anyway, at which the saxophone appears in the gloomy chasm in which we find ourselves. From this it’s over to the anarchic chaos of “To the Rest”. A guitar solo and the saxophone, which appears to taken on the role of the grim reaper with its menacing tones, provide support as this ten minute piece becomes darker and more nightmarish in its atmosphere. “Temptation of Judas” takes us back to the extreme end. The musical pattern is off centre. It’s harsh and violent. The vocalist’s screams and growls suggest insanity to go with the unhinged instrumentals. Now a faintly Eastern sound is the prelude for the return of that saxophone. It’s kind of jazzy if you could ever describe such blackness this way. The expression is soulful but always menacing. “Kaleidoscope Grey Heaven” is the name of this sax-inspired throat cutting. The background rhythm provides the grey. Its quiet end adds extra menace. The now customary bleak setting and insane growls return. There’s a head of steam and “13” chugs along merrily as our friend on the mic goes terminally insane. I’m not sure if I was supposed to laugh but this seemed to be turning into a gurgling competition with insane competitor and sinister black metal sparks flying n the background. Even the saxophone has gone mad on the title track, which ends the album. The melodic progress falls somewhere between the style of Khold and Katatonia. It’s hypnotic. Mid-way through it slows down and a repressed rhythm brings on a bleak aura. It breaks open, the drum signals urgency and there’s even epic and mildly mystical touches in the final moments of this fiery and grim album.

This ode to inhumanity is as uncompromising and extreme as it gets. I liked the originality of the saxophone and the instrumental assault in general but all this blood, sweat and grimness amounted to me was a uniform atmosphere. However avant-garde this purports to be, and the anarchic structures suggest that it is, this is an extreme metal album when all said and done.

(6.5/10 Andrew Doherty)