This second album release from Finland’s Charnel Winds provides the opportunity to explore what they call “apocalyptic heterodox black metal”. The patterns are bleak and irregular. In fact the patterns amount to creepy and sinister passages, not to mention torture-laden vocals. The riffs are off-key in a way that you might think they could be normal but they’re not. “Avitchi Blues” makes steady progress but it’s distorted. The deliberate unpleasantness of the sound bears a resemblance to Ephel Duath, but then normality will resume for a short while and we’re listening to a progressive-sounding black metal. As for the vocals, they’re meant to be ghastly and raw, while reflecting the terrible nature of it all, but they are terrible in their own right.

The freezing sounds of hell link the tracks, so “Avitchi Blues” leads into the crusty and exploratory “Atmāsphere”. There’s no doubt that the driving and purposeful guitar work provide the atmosphere. It’s twisting and scornful, slowing down to the accompaniment of the ghostly vocals. That’s the politest way I can describe them. But the guitar tune marches along creepily and maintains the dark intrigue. This all comes from an alien world. “Rebellion” blasts on anarchically, with the insane vocals a side dish to the surging and indeed exciting instrumentals. “The Abyss Gazes Also” has a hypnotic and lingering quality. The more I listened to this album, the more I liked the pounding strength of the instrumentals. The out of tune vocals mingle with cat screams and even duet with them. The chorus is actually quite catchy. It’s different. Pumping riffs with injections of creepy colour are for me the strength of this well-constructed album. Sometimes it’ll take off for a while as a hidden wind ups the tempo, as it does on “Beyond Null Reality” before reverting to a strange and dark chant. Seven minutes are then devoted to a lengthy and laborious knife twist on “The Heralding” before a break and a powerful step-up for the final three minutes of this dark and threat-laden work.

If you’re looking for something oddball in the black metal genre, this may suit you well. Vocals don’t usually bother me, and they didn’t here, but they are strange. What they manage to do is to complete the picture of the grim and largely rule-free world, which Charnel Winds’s instrumentalists portray.

(7/10 Andrew Doherty)