Ready for some metal of death with shamanic drumming and chanting, occasional soprano vocals and choral aspects and even the use of a singing bowl? Well that should give you an idea that this album, the first from Khanus following on from an EP and single a couple of years ago is going to be a little bit different. Although from Finland I noticed straight away that the trio here have some English eccentricities on their side courtesy of drummer LordT who is also in our own arch weirdoes Code. As for the album title it has to do with engraving similar to a woodcut and derives from medieval cosmology and scientific and mystical quests for knowledge. Just by these facts I had a feeling that this was not going to be the easiest of albums to fathom although on a first listen I already was aware it was striking a chord and I was going to like and appreciate it more on further spins.

It starts by affirming its metal of death credentials with a cover version (of sorts) of classic Darkthrone Total Death number ‘The Serpent’s Harvest’. You might not recognise this from the off unless you are total kvlt (I didn’t and don’t mind admitting it) as it starts with those aforementioned shamanic chants which if anything bring to mind recent Ruins Of Beverast. Once the rugged doom drenched riffs rumble in though and you play the tracks back to back it is all there and one can only wonder what ole Fenriz thinks about the whole thing as he has no doubt heard it himself. Sovereign aka Scythe of bands such as Iku-Turso and Wrathage seems to be behind a lot of this including bass, guitar and the vocals which build with an avant theatricality as things progress and really range from gravid growls to pompous clamouring and wild yells. Warbling in the background we have Meltiis providing feminine mysticism and with chants which are attributed to KHAA-man we have a version like any other Darkthrone cover you have ever heard. Having got that out their system the rest of the material is their own although the blurry combustion of guitar weaving and pounding drums on ‘A Timeless Sacred Art’ have a certain Bölzer vibe to them. Unleashed and to a certain extent unhinged with some dictatorial vocal parts this is solid stuff. Although the production is far more formidable and in the face than olde blackened standards, those looking for a blast from the past may favour the dense riff flurries combined with the historic sounding vocals that sound like they belong to an ancient civilisation and should win any listener over rapidly and have them suitably banging of head.

Things get odder as they progress ‘Titan Souls’ is a groovy foot-stomper and hits like a helter-skelter pony express being chased by pesky injuns as it rumbles away. Perhaps a bit of Code has seeped in along with at beginning a melody that wouldn’t be out of place in a Vulture Industries number. The PR blurb has already nailed some of the comparisons here making my job a little harder but this is one of those albums that will unveil more of its sacred texts and tribal incantations over repeated listens. The oddest thing to me is that although this is obviously dead serious and done from the heart of blackness and death it is also dare I say quite a bit of fun! There’s a bit of everything going on too from macabre choir and symphonic elements on ‘Ageless’ reminding of everything from Therion to Samael to the Voivod, Virus, Ved Buens Ende lurch of the riffs and out-there vocals of the latter tracks. I like anything that twists and turns genre conventions on their heads and that is certainly what Khanus have done here taking an identifiable base element and melding it into something somewhat different via unorthodox methods. I guess a lot of albums on the I, Voidhanger imprint are guilty of that though so label wise this fits right at home. Hopefully people will discover Khanus as although obviously an underground act in the true sense of the word this deserves to be heard and it’s an album I am certainly glad I stumbled across.

(7.5/10 Pete Woods)