I absolutely loved this Ukrainian band’s debut release, “Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum”, enough to get the vinyl and a shirt a few years ago or so when I heard it. The band maybe Ukrainian (with members of Drudkh at the helm) but their name originates from Germany and translates as Ratcatcher and is taken from the medieval legend of the Rattenfänger von Hameln from the town of Hamelin, Lower Saxony. Though the band name has German origination the song titles do not, preferring to adopt Latin which was also prevalent on the debut. The debut was a slab of gnarly deathliness boasting a guttural sound that continues into this sophomore, only intensified and distilled to produce a record of encapsulating sonic asphyxiation.

Added to the background is that the album title relates to a medieval song of the same name where bands of flagellants roamed the Middle Ages in response to two periods of trauma, called Geisslerlied. Said bands went about whipping themselves for all sorts of reasons as a form of self-torture. Indeed the opening intro piece sets the scene extremely well, with animal noises, bell chime and a backing choir like vocal that leads into “Materia Prima” where a puncturing riff stabs into the listener with salivating gusto. The grisly vocals are superb, utterly void of passion the inhumanity is there to be heard as the song funnels down doom death suffocation. The blending of guttural power with doom death phrasing runs veins of choking claustrophobia to brilliant effect on this song and the album as a whole.

The haunting and ghoulish intro start to “Pestarzt” is macabrely delivered as the slow pervasive drumming is bolstered by the crushing kick drums. The riff break instils barbarity as do the awesome vocals which are beyond terrifying, producing that inhuman primitiveness. “Les Bons Hommes” is monstrous, the bass is colossal where the dense drum work is fractured by a piercing riff salvo and blasting assault that catapults the album into a stratospheric bludgeoning; the sound on this album has got to be heard to be believed. The addition of choral vocals imbibes a sense of drama with no dilution in power as the oppressive “Sella Stercoraria” offers the first epic tune. The narrated intro piece is overwhelmed by the blast beat but you can still hear it as it distances itself in the mix to great effect as the song cavernously drops into a dirge doom death affront. The penetrating inhumanity is wielded like a weapon thudding into the listener with a demented beastly horror.

Favourite track is the immense “De Blasphemia In Latina Vulgaris” where backing noises and what is possibly the sharpening of a blade is heard. The choral addition theatrics are balanced by the cloying density of the riffing where the funereal pace laments with suffocating poise. Those backing atmospherics are completely essential to the song as it very gradually morphs in pace, increasing it slightly to a wonderful catchy section that will have your head nodding in approval. As the song progresses the fracturing bass line is crust like as the drums intensify the song with ever deepening layers of density. You can feel the song ratcheting up the power with each passing second towards the riff break and savage cymbal smash insertion that sees the pace detonate.

The album ends with “Funis Coronat Opus”, a song that continues the dirge like pummelling as a mechanised structure is felt on the drum work. Those insanely deep vocals run rampant again as the music sounds like your swimming through magma such is its smothering intensity as the sporadic speed work outs add momentum to the pyroclastic pulverising something that this album has in volcanic proportions, as I strongly urge all death metal fans to check this album out.

(9.5/10 Martin Harris)