A Confounding Emotional Headspace: SEPULCROS - Vazio Review

The Portuguese unit craft funeral doom excellence on their Lewandowski-drawn debut.

mariusz lewandowski sepulcros
Cover art by Mariusz Lewandowski

Words by Rohan (@manvsplaylist):

Writhing in shackles and banished to contemplate a life in purgatory – that is the crater of empty despair which SEPULCROS hurls us in to commence their debut offering Vazio. As one of the latest groups to spring from the burgeoning underground scene of Portugal, SEPULCROS inhabit an endless netherworld filled with their unique blend of thunderous funeral death doom entwined with seething, blackened ferocity.


The initial feel of this album is squarely planted in a familiar, cavernous funeral doom aesthetic. Thergothon-esque pace layered with subtle glimpses of atmosphere and texture, deranged low end gutterals and completed with restrained, measured, reverb soaked drum patterns. But as becomes quickly evident on the true opening track Vazio (translation: “Empty”), SEPULCROS have an innate ability to lurch their style, tempo and approach in a diametrically opposite direction, only to then quickly revert course back to their steady state of haunting funeral procession.


SEPULCROS’ mastery on this debut comes from their adventurous and atypical splicing of the various extreme styles that they draw from, which shifts without warning, but never feels haphazard or forced. Quite the opposite: the breadth of approaches constantly brings a sense of nervous anticipation bordering on anxiety, given that at any stage of plodding doom, the band is likely to careen over the precipice and plummet head first into a blast-filled blistering rage. And it does so with immense impact.


There is a morose, deep and hollow haunting feel to the tone and atmosphere that runs through the length of this album, one that calls to mind other similarly unique but memorably emotion-drenched landscapes by the likes of Chthe’ilist, Esoteric and Disembowelment. The weight of despair and torment is conveyed with utter conviction by vocalist SB, as his arsenal of wailing screams, death growls and demonic gutterals forge with the intricately balanced dual guitar lines that bend and traverse each other in oddly twisting moments of melody. The collective sound that SEPULCROS have summoned is stunning, richly layered, as if filling an eternal passageway of anguish and despondency.


The aptly titled Marcha Funebre continues the funeral doom exploration of desolate, barren wastelands, with subtly melodic guitar lines that invokes a heightened sense of sorrow and misery. Once the tempo shifts to blast beat realms, fans of the recent works of Schammasch and Dodsrit will connect with the visceral rage that explodes from the darkness. This track in particular delivers a poignant reflection of the confounding emotional headspace that surrounds unexpected human tragedies.


While each song harnesses enormous energy & fierce intensity, SEPULCROS have deftly managed to bring together a complete album that is a perfectly digestible length, without overstaying its welcome or droning tediously. The main body of the album is comprised of 4 tracks, each roughly in the 8 – 9 minute run time, a feature which on this album completely works in its favor, a trait that is not always common place within the death/funeral doom lane. Much in the same way the genre tags seem utterly hapless in describing the breadth of ground covered by bands such as Gaerea and Ruins of Beverast, so too is the exercise equally inept when attempting to singularly reference a style or approach that SEPULCROS have managed to deliver. It is pointless and unnecessary when the music itself is so powerful, engrossing and searing with emotion.


The overall weight of Vazio is complemented by another remarkable Mariusz Lewandowski portrait that so vividly depicts the hollow eternity below that envelope those struggling with grief and the unnerving pain that manifests in forms both mental & physical. Our attention is drawn to a lone, singular, miniscule figure perched on cliff’s edge left to contemplate depths of the unknown that lie below. In just a few short years, Lewandowski has established an incredible portfolio of contributions to the world of extreme music, and his work with SEPULCROS once again demonstrates his adept touch in reflecting the same emotional and atmospheric visual qualities that are presented within the music itself.


With their bold debut album, SEPULCROS have produced an intensely captivating, devastatingly heavy listening experience that treads ambitiously across a wide range of styles and delivers a sound that is rich with atmosphere and filled with a deep plaintive reflection.

Vazio arrives on March 12th via Transcending Obscurity Records. Order it HERE.