What do you get if you cross a member of Success Will Write Apocalypse Across the Skies with one of The Ocean and an ex from War From A Harlots mouth? Nope there’s no punch-line here just a trio with a debut album seeing them signed to Season Of Mist and a sound that is pretty well described by its title. The collective noise here may well have the intensity of some of the aforementioned artists but is a different beast entirely and one that feels very much like it is dredged up from tales of terror told by that master of darkness H.P. Lovecraft himself. That’s nothing new and to be honest neither is the deathly descent into the abyss made by this dreadful collective, not that this will stop acolytes to their temple enjoying it any the less.
‘The Descent’ begins in introductory instrumental form and is a brief trip down below but perhaps the monsters are eagerly rushing up to meet our intrepid explorers at the halfway point. Setting the listener on edge the sound is already dense and fathomless before we burst into first track proper, the strangely entitled ‘Stahwald.’ This opens things up and churns out both a technical edge from the players and an incredibly gruff and weathered vocal performance from the ex-harlot John Collett. Well-honed and beastly but with a gloomy midpoint section heightening feelings of horror via its atmosphere the tentacles spread and start to throttle. This band are, it becomes quickly evident, not about overplaying their hand, each of the ten tracks are shorn of lean and pretty constrained with compact flow. The whole album lasts 35 minutes and swiftly moves from one nightmare to the next packing in as much fear as it can within the playing time. Track titles like ‘Skinner’ bring all sorts of ghastly images to the mind sounding like it could refer to an escapee from the mind of Clive Barker and having crawled out the pit be out for reaping souls. The underlying bass work on this one is just one of many things you will hear if you peel back the layers but despite any technicality that is on display there is also a serious edge of primitivism about everything here. ‘Bleach’ has a rugged and dissonant feel that you may well find in the work of certain blacker French artists and there’s definitely slime and all manner of nasty things unearthed in the doom laden crush of ‘Cave Dweller.’
As we rumble into the second half the scares are certainly there although I find now that the band have hit their stride there’s not a huge amount of variation to their seething attack and it all sprawls into one continuous audial vision of hell. Perhaps a little more variation in the vocals would help and I definitely found some high etched near grindcore screams courtesy of Alan Dubin ex of Khanate and OLD (Lo Flux Tube being an understated classic as far as I’m concerned) bringing a much needed extra dimension to things. I think if the album had been any longer I would have found it a bit too cumbersome for its own good and by the time melodic instrumental closer ‘Swansong’ wraps things up I have had enough of this churning slab of horror. Definitely not an album to take to bed with you, the end result has been successfully achieved here though and if you are looking for an exercise in bowel quaking fear, this one certainly won’t be selling you short.
(7/10 Pete Woods)