Cosmic Putrefaction – The Horizons Towards Which Splendour Withers
Unusual tales of distant damnations.
In recent years, the graveyard dwelling genre of death metal so heavily associated with gore and rot has been taking its gaze from the worm-ridden dirt to the black spaces between the stars. It began with bands like Zealotry, Nucleus, Execration, and Blood Incantation across a variety of various stylistic permutations but in 2020 it seems certain that the strange celestial forces beyond our skies are slowly entering well worn crypts of forbidden sorceries and carnal depravities. You wouldn’t think so with Cosmic Putrefaction’s debut album last year. For all of its ominous song titles musically it was a straightforward fast, furious, and filthy piece of work rooted in cadaver-filled soils rather than ethereal star faring dominion. Thankfully G.G., also of The Clearing Path, aims to correct this clash between imagery and content with this follow-up that showcases a transformation towards something at once familiar but not fully so. A reconfiguration of familiar death metal into a warped form bridging the sepulchral and the astral defines Cosmic Putrefaction’s newest album in a complete metamorphosis, fulfilling what was promised with a brand new sound that gives us one of 2020’s most compelling takes on death metal so far.
The Horizons Towards Which Splendour Withers is based a large part on classic American style death metal as well as its darker modern-day descendants. Unusually under-represented in spite of high profile releases by bands like Dead Congregation, Cruciamentum, Vacivus, and Ritualization, Cosmic Putrefaction have many of its general hallmarks whether it’s rigidly paced tremolo lines paired with columns of furious blasting or rapidly shifting networks of rapidly morphing riffing and varying tempos, they already have a strong baseline to work with. Augmenting this is an ear for unusual chord choices, unsettling melodies, and spacious harmonies that veer near the shadowy realms of darker avant-prog style death metal bands like Calcemia or Garroted. Cosmic Putrefaction is more understated in their unusual side yet it makes itself clearer at the various intersections when their militant intensity falls back to let G.G.’s eye for lightly symphonic touches or ghostly harmonies whispering madness to emerge, draping these six songs in moments of supernatural atmosphere. Its legs may be rooted in genre fundamentals but Cosmic Putrefaction are not afraid to let the borders of the familiar dissolve into moments of abstract and ambiguous texture. One almost wishes they would push it further, yet it’s also enticing to imagine where he could go if he doubled down on the raw force and violent intensity of the genre. It’s a relief to hear a musician whose aspirations towards the beyond have a firm foundation on the mountainous corpse piles of the genre and the wealth of grim knowledge within them.
The scope of these songs has also taken a change towards a kind of epic morbidity to accommodate this sweeping, unusually cinematic sound. A wide array of riffs, arranged in lengthier chains of interwoven themes, informs the six songs present. Ghoulishly satisfying melodies form the backbone of the songwriting, augmented by light tinges of dissonance and ritualistic drum patterns, and like a black metal band almost they focus on a sense of flowing continuity between these ideas with the (digitized?) strings and echo-y melodies floating in the background adding to this sense of being at once viciously aggressive but also forlorn and distant. Songs unfold and unveil in gradual large scale motions with new iterations of core ideas varying up the phrasing and technique that paint an increasingly larger sense of spanning spacey atmosphere where rugged riffing create an environment where a number of interesting ideas such as sudden arching basslines contrasting the riffing in an almost clashing manner or sonorous layered ambience can sound out against the rush of storming tremolo patterns. Typically these are used to provide a powerful climax to these songs, working all the pent up tension then bleeding it out into these eerie, disaffected moments of sombre reflection amidst cosmic terror.
However, for all of this album’s strength a number of shortcomings do emerge from its highly particular approach occasionally turning its own strengths against it. The Horizons Towards Which Splendour Withers has a few moments where these atmospheric sections take the front and centre but go on a bit too long, entering drawn out fading outro territory along with clashing with the more gut-punch intense riff-city moments. It’s more of a problem in the latter half, especially the closer which just a little over halfway turns into a long series of very drawn out layered portions as if it was decided the last three minutes of the song needed to be a very aggressive if overlong outro. These parts aren’t beyond salvation; the idea of creating this hybrid of the ruthless and the eerily distant is something that hasn’t been explored much in the genre and backing it up with riffs this gnarly isn’t any less uncommon. It does however result in some parts where it feels like the dynamic intensity that starts many of these songs is sacrificed for cool sweeping moments that are pleasant but feel a little too straightforward at the same time, almost as if they’d be better used to space out more frenetic, frenzied moments elsewhere. Regardless, in spite of these shortcomings this sophomore still shows a marked improvement to At the Threshold of the Greatest Chasm. Hopefully they can fix up this currently awkward balance between the meditative moments and the capital D&M Death Metal ones. They’re just a few inches from truly nailing it and entering the outer dimensions where the solar titans reside. Recommended for fans of the brainy and brawny ends of the death metal genre alike.
Pre-order this album on I, Voidhanger’s official bandcamp.
Three and a half out of five toilets where your indigestion withers.