There’s some solid stuff coming out on label Aesthetic Death whether it’s the sludgy, blackened doom of Ketch or the equally highly recommended quirky black metal of Lashblood. Indeed, it’s a label that’s becoming known for its appreciation of the avant-garde. That in itself is not a bad thing but Mekigah still seems off-beat by comparison. Now onto his fourth album this Australian, Vis Ortis, has clearly made waves in some circles. But figuring out why that might be is far from straightforward. First you have to make it past the synthed-up and mega-distorted production. I spent the first few minutes assuming this was some ambient, noise-driven trip burrowing itself into the fringes of my consciousness as some kind of mildly hallucinatory adventure. To be honest, I could actually have got my head around that, having submerged my head into plenty of noise and drone in the past whenever it comes my way. And indeed several of the tracks are vocal free and actually quite enjoyable on this basis.

Take the semi-instrumental The Infinite Never, probably one of my favourites with its Massive Attack arrangements and floating effects. Or Fooled Blood which begins with a full-on ambient echo chamber of voices and sound which is then intruded upon by the strumming of an acoustic guitar – which is in turn strangled distorted and warped (very much as a record might sound if left in the sun). Pretty cool in an odd sort of way and proof indeed that there is mastery of arts technological going on here. But on most of the tracks that then gets mixed in with an ultra-gothic vocal dirge or semi-industrial ire – again drowned in a reverberating mix – combined with a wildly distorted but equally synthetic riff and heavy bass line which at times just felt like overly synthesised new wave. Again, not necessarily a bad thing.

There is no doubt that this is skilfully mixed and there are some very nice electronic effects bouncing around – like the instrumental track Diminished Responsibility which reaches a nice crescendo of percussion and vortex noise. But for me it didn’t distract from the feeling that some of these tracks are fairly conventional 1980s throwback material which has then almost drowned in noise and distortion. I can well imagine that for some that would be a draw given that at times the effect gets quite intense. But that does first require you to like the basic ingredients of Field of the Nephilim let loose on a mixing desk. Definitely one to check out if you fancy a bit of experimentation – and there are some fun things going on in here – but it couldn’t distract me from the fact that one of the basic ingredients was a bit uninspiring.

(6/10 Reverend Darkstanley)