SELBST weaves tales of anguish with their second full length.
Words by Ryan McCarthy:
SELBST is a Venezuelan solo project specializing in a very angular brand of black metal. SELBST - who draws their name from the German word for “self” - explores lyrical topics revolving around anti-religion and individualism, which isn’t exactly unheard of for a black metal project. However, the lyrics have a very metaphysical angle to them, bringing a level of intellectuality to what could have easily ended up as an endless recycling of tired Satanic tropes.
2020’s Relatos de Angustia (Spanish for “stories of anguish”; we’re just all over the map on the linguistic front) is the logical culmination of a band that I’ve admired ever since hearing their split with AVERSIO HUMANITATIS, a Spanish band who plays a very similar style of dense, fast-paced, and disorienting black metal. Incidentally, that split really made a lot of sense to me upon hearing it; not only does SELBST remind me of AVERSIO HUMANITATIS, but they also evoke comparisons to bands like BLAZE OF PERDITION and even DEATHSPELL OMEGA. They even have something of an Icelandic edge to their music, reminding me a bit of bands like CARPE NOCTEM and ZHRINE. My love for the Icelandic scene is no secret, so it’s also no mystery why this album resonated with me right away. But if those comparisons still haven’t sold you, let’s go a bit further and talk about what you can expect from this record on a sonic level.
The guitar work is absolutely astounding, sometimes jaw-droppingly good. I don’t meant that it’s so technically proficient that you have to count in your head to figure out what’s going on. I mean it’s clear that N, the sole member in the band, has a level of intuitive musical prowess that you simply can’t learn. For example, the riff that comes in around 1:25 in Silent Soul Throes is so genuinely powerful and moving that on my first listen through, I rewound it and listened again. It’s one of those riffs that makes me fall in love with the genre all over again. There’s a haunting quality to these compositions that leaves you wanting more and more, and this riff is just one of many moments on this record that make me heave a huge sigh and wonder why I even bother writing music when bands like this already exist.
The session drums on Relatos de Angustia, courtesy of one Nebiros Sad, absolutely blow me away. The attention to dynamics, detail, and nuance combined with stamina and speed make this one of the more memorable drum performances of the year, and form the perfect skeleton over which the sinewy riffs weave in and out, binding the tracks together in a cohesive way. Make no mistake, this record is meant to be listened to in its entirety.
I’m going to make a very bold assertion here and say that the vocals might actually be the least memorable part of this record. Not to suggest they're bad; they’re just very uniform throughout, and mixed relatively quietly. Don’t get me wrong, I love them, I think they work perfectly, they have a lot of body and presence, but they just don’t quite live up to the rest of the musicianship, considering just how high-quality the entirety of the record is musically. However, there’s a singing section in The Weight of Breathing that breaks up the monotony wonderfully. Singing in extreme metal usually isn’t for me, but there’s such an obviously emotional aspect to the music on this record that the clean vocals actually fit perfectly.
Relatos de Angustia is available now via Debemur Morti Productions. You need to make some time to listen to this album, and if physical copies are your thing, you can get one HERE.