Blackened death awaits.
Words by Ryan McCarthy:
In this week’s column, I want to highlight The Great Solar Hunter by CONSUMMATION and The Heart of the Netherworld by DESOLATE SHRINE, two albums that absolutely blew me away within the first two minutes of listening. Both of the groups elicit an almost palpable feeling of dread and awe on the respective offerings, and I'd go as far as call each of them masterpieces of the genre. The oppressive atmospheres on these records truly demonstrate the overwhelmingly powerful effect that combining black metal and death metal can have.
CONSUMMATION - The Great Solar Hunter
Hailing from Australia, CONSUMMATION is a band which shares members with some big names in the country's extreme metal scene, including IMPETUOUS RITUAL and PSYCROPTIC. Incidentally, those bands serve as a good frame of reference to describe CONSUMMATION’s sound: they manage to be both deeply murky and technically proficient at once.
The Great Solar Hunter is one hell of a grandiose album. From the ominous opening passage to the final notes, I’m left with a sense of CONSUMMATION having created something bigger than the sum of its parts. In my opinion, black metal is nothing without the atmosphere it evokes, which is what sets the truly great apart from the mediocre, and CONSUMMATION has certainly achieved a wonderful atmosphere on The Great Solar Hunter.
The opening section of the eponymous track is jarring and disorienting. The drumming in particular shines, with perfectly executed blasts and tasteful fills interspersed throughout. I’m legitimately left reeling while listening to this track as if I’m wandering through an Escher painting, able to get my bearings for a few moments before the whole scene rotates 90 degrees and leaves me off balance. The entirety of this album feels like a shifting labyrinth.
In no way am I suggesting that CONSUMMATION have created an unwieldy album here. Quite the contrary, it’s very clear that they know exactly what they’re doing, and know how to utilize their instruments to great effect. After multiple listens, I’m left with the impression that this is the sort of album that will reveal new details with each spin, constantly altering the way in which the listener anticipates and engages with what they’re hearing.
I think DEATHSPELL OMEGA gets an unfair reputation as the solitary torch bearers of angular, technical black metal, but I can’t resist making the comparison here. Some of these tracks reach formidable lengths, but they are each rewarding in their own way. The Great Solar Hunter is the soundtrack to a Dantean descent into Hell, with all the attendant pomp and murkiness that would entail.
Favorite Tracks: Ophidian Crown, The Great Solar Hunter
DESOLATE SHRINE - The Heart of the Netherworld
Speaking of massive albums and descents into the underworld, DESOLATE SHRINE is absolutely pummeling on this record. These Finns blur the line between death metal and black metal, utilizing catchy, ENTOMBED-esque riffs that morph seamlessly into massive and cavernous black metal passages.
The album’s intro begins with an ambient swell, resembling the sounds of wind chimes ringing discordantly, heralding the tempest to come. Once the volume has swelled to an uncomfortable level, they dive right in to their menacing style of blackened death metal. A few of the tracks on this record are a bit more accessible in terms of, but for the most part, DESOLATE SHRINE is no less averse to lengthening a track than their counterparts in CONSUMMATION.
The production on this album does take a bit of getting used to. It sort of sounds like they took the master track and distorted the whole thing. Everything on this record is bassy, thunderous and dark. Even the leads sit pretty low in the mix and are really just another layer of darkness rather than a standalone bit of music. However, I really like the effect that this produces; you have to really strain to discern what’s going on at points, which forces you to pay close attention to what they’re doing on this record. It’s not like the production is muddy due to apathy, it’s clear that they use this distorted mix to produce a certain effect on the listener. Like gazing into the abyss and having it stare back at you.
Favorite Tracks: Black Fires of God, Leviathan
DESOLATE SHRINE fits more squarely into the death metal genre than does CONSUMMATION. Everything from the vocals, to the drumming, to the riffs, and even the production choices, suggests a death metal sensibility. However, this is a very minor difference, as both projects utilize the very best elements of each genre to create the oppressive soundscapes on their records.
All said and done, The Great Solar Hunter and The Heart of the Netherworld have a tremendous amount in common, to the point where I could believe that they’re two different releases from the same band. The absolute best qualities of blackened death metal shine throughout both like a black flame.
As always, thank you for supporting good music and the great people behind it all.