I always appreciate a bit of swirling chaos of a bleak mid-winter evening so this glorious second wind for Entheogen’s self-release last year couldn’t be better timed. As a baseline for what promises to be a cracking year in extreme metal, what more could you ask for than this? Backed appropriately by the masters of so many things heavy and psychedelic – I, Voidhanger – it’s fairly easy to see where these guys are coming from. Imagine a darker more oppressive Nightside Eclipse, with added suffocating blackness for good measure, and you’d not be far wrong. Without Veil, Nor Self plunges into the pit and continues its descent for six tracks of black metal magic that reminds you what it’s like to be suspended in a void of total noise that would leave the thinly arrayed psychological protective barriers of most ordinary punters bleeding and torn.
The first thing that strikes about the Without Veil is the backbone of percussion adding structure to the cacophony – taken care of by band mastermind Steve Blackburn’s brother Jack. Blackburn himself has also performed as sticksman for Benighted in Sodom, perhaps explaining the clear familial attention given here to the relentless rhythms that beat the angular path ever downwards (notably on second track Sol Genesis). Very Deathspell Omega at times, if Deathspell Omega consumed 17 cans of Red Bull before entering the studio and turned up the metronome a few skittering beats at the same time. The Blackburn brothers are also regulars in Chaos Moon, Guðveiki, Esoterica and Accursed Aeons, while also making appearances in the brilliant Skáphe alongside Alex Poole (also vocalist in Entheogen) and DG (from Icelandic legends Misþyrmin). I could go on, but safe to say there is some experience here that shines through quite evidently from the outset.
At times it feels like there’s no escape as the walls close in on extended tracks like Sol Knell. But it’s undoubtedly the arrival of breaks in the music ushered in by the comparatively shorter title track and the penultimate Lethean Throat that gives the album and, more importantly, the listener time to exhale. The few moments needed to recoup and get a little perspective on the cosmic rollercoaster before the arrival of the final track Pall, dragged bellowing and screaming from the Blut Aus Nord playbook. It’s 10:29 minutes of monochromatic aural textures that will surely leave you wondering what Entheogen might be able to do had it had an hour rather than the 40 minutes at hand. But you know what they say, always leave them wanting more, and that is never more true than in black metal where the ability to self-edit is sometimes in short supply. Without Veil, Nor Self is a blast that’s difficult to fault on many levels.
So kudos for Entheogen for a giant black metal release that I can digest in a single journey to the office even if, after three or four listens, I’m still left wondering if there aren’t new heights to be had in some future release. No bad thing surely?
(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)