Hands Across Black Metal: A Review of VIII’s Decathexis
Decathexis, the second-full length from Italy’s VIII (formerly Division VIII) is a black metal Cadbury Creme Egg. Though it possesses a dark, tough, and mysterious exterior, lurking within is a delicious, decadent, and wholly worthwhile cream filling. And like Cadbury Creme Eggs, Decathexis is the kind of rare album that can end wars, destroy borders, and usher in a glorious global civilization of multicultural splendor. Don’t believe me? Take a bite out of this morsel below and let that gooey goodness seep into your mouth and ears.
As the inevitable, indomitable march of globalization sallies ever forth, black metal as a system continues to grow in complexity and specialization. Although this increasing genrefication of the music we love may be off-putting to neophytes, it certainly serves its purpose in allowing us to have meaningful discussions of specific techniques and enables us to provide accurate recommendations to like-minded listeners. The downside of subgenre gerrymandering though is that many fans become locked into a specific district, unable or unwilling to truly enjoy the full spectrum of diversity within the heavy music family. Rare is the album that transcends genre boundaries, and rarer still is the album that blends distinct flavors from different subgenres into a cohesive and interesting tonic.
Decathexis is that kind of album, and though it was technically birthed within the dank, obsidian gates of black metal’s Mordor, VIII paint liberally with all the different hues of the metal spectrum. Does it work? Absolutely. Don’t believe me? Press play below and listen along to the 50-minute or so flight of fancy. Still unconvinced? Assemble your subgenre tribe for an Entmoot, then, and just see if there won’t be something that appeals to you and your individual snowflake sensibilities.
Trve, black-hearted kvltists, listen up. There is no need to to put on your Norwegian cosplay and break out that replica battle axe to defend lady black metal’s honor wherever it may be impugned online. Despite all of its progressive elements and genre-blending wankery, Decathexis is a vicious album, one with an organic production and more than enough blast beats and tremolo riffs (particularly in the first five minutes of “Symptom”) to dry all those raw tears running your
mascara corpse paint. Plus, you can rest assured that never once do the vocals start showing any hint of melody or emotion. All of the shrieks are pure, unadulterated rage, even when the music loosens up a bit. Fret not, left-hand pathers; this album will not destroy your cred.
If your heart isn’t made of frozen pagan fire and/or you don’t call your parents your roommates, there’s plenty here for you too! Jaded old heshers who headbanged away the ability to form short-term memories and still pine for the days when we were united against the common foe of censorship and the man, man, grab a pen and paper and write this down so that you can remember it later: this album has riffs. Sure, those riffs are interspersed between a bunch of weird artsy-fartsy stuff that has no place on your leather jacket, but there are definitely riffs. Killer ones too. Fastforward to about 13:45 in “Diagnosis” to hear a ravenous riff that sounds like a shark circling in on an injured surfer. Let us headbang as one to the glorious riff.
Scenie weenies rocking your Invader Zim backbacks at BTBAM concerts, prepare to completely flip your swoopy haircuts over the lolsorandom zaniness of the diverse elements interwoven into Decathexis‘s ornate passages. After you hear that totally rad dub beat at 5:40 in “Diagnosis,” stick around to see how deftly VIII transition in and out of these unique little flourishes without ever losing momentum or dropping the sonic ball. Sure, there are a lot of weird things afoot at the Circle K Inn, but each record hiss, spoken word passage, piano tinkling, or sax riff is incorporated so well that you’ll never have to fear a jarring transformation will pry you out of your skinny jeans.
Speaking of those utterly sexy sax passages, prog nerds who misspent their youths trying to zoom in on Andariel’s pert, pixelated boobies in Diablo II will have much to raise a goblet of Mountain Dew to here. Like Andariel’s low-resolution, infernal sensuality, Decathexis offers a titillating blend of sexiness and danger that fulfills all of your deeply shameful fantasies without ever once asking you to step foot out of the security of your basement lair. Just listen to that horrifying start-and-stop riff that evokes Altar of Plagues immediately after touching you tenderly with a red hot sax riff around the 5:30 mark of “Diagnosis.” You’re welcome.
Let’s not forget the way VIII’s heady concept of self-alienation and their flagrant use of polyrhythms (check out the 7:00 mark in “Symptom”) panders to the avant-garde pseudo-intellectual weird music fans like me who are unable to achieve climax without having our delicate pineal glands stroked. Those big, triumphant Enslaved-esque riffs and weird tribal drum patterns in “Prognosis” are sure to destroy all your impotence and make you feel really smart for liking such intricate, challenging music. You can put that copy of Infinite Jest down because those weirdo jazz beats and Tomas Haake-like spoken word passages in “Diagnosis” have you covered.
Even the weight-crushing, Deadspin browsing meatheads with tough online usernames with “kill” in them will be enticed away from their usual fare of breakdowns and HGH by Decathexis‘s disarming accessibility. An album composed of three 15-minute-plus tracks has no right to be this catchy or to hold your tiny attention span for its entire proggy runtime, and yet it does just that due to VIII’s peerless musicianship and attention to songcraft. The frequent shifts in mood and style, from coffee-house prog to smooth jazz to flamenco guitar (in “Prognosis”) to unholy black metal actually serves to keep listeners entertained throughout each track, yet the band is able to maintain the tone and momentum through excellent use of dynamics and hooks throughout. It may not cause you to spinkick, but you’ll definitely want to crush some Jager bombs during the fast parts.
If you read all of the above and thought that all of it sounded wonderful, congratulations! You’re probably an “I Listen to Everything” snob and have now discovered your latest talking point for when you have your old MBA buddies over to drink IPAs and look at your new coffee table book of tasteful nude photography. I hope you enjoy your newfound line item on your portfolio.
As you may have noted, Decathexis does a damn fine job of uniting pretty much every pole of the extreme metal spectrum. Reaching the climax of this album is tantamount to the triumphant conclusion of Independence Day, except rather than us all bonding over a jingoistic annihilation of a sentient life-form seeking natural resources, we’re holding hands over the glory of a truly progressive, downright fun extreme metal album that manages to be both smart and entertaining. What a rare treat. Really, the only downside to this whole thing is the small but noticeable lack of bottom-end. A bit more grit and a little more grime, and perhaps we could have even reeled in the crust kids and sludge-guzzlers. Lord knows they need to belong somewhere.
4.5 out ov 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
If you found yourself mentioned somewhere up above, head on over to Third I Rex‘s Bandcamp page to order a copy of Decathexis. While you’re at it, go give VIII a hug on Facebook.