Review: Black Cilice — Banished from Time

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I WILL NOT SUMMON PAZUZU IN CHURCH

I WILL NOT SUMMON PAZUZU IN CHURCH

I WILL NOT SUMMON PAZUZU IN CHURCH

I WILL NOT SUMMON PAZUZU IN CHURCH

I WILL NOT SUMMON PAZUZU IN CHURCH

That was my transgression the last time I was banished from time: I summoned Pazuzu in church. Not only was I banished from time, but I had to promise not to do it again in writing with chalk on a blackboard 666 times. I don’t know what the nameless creature behind black metal act Black Cilice did to get himself banished from time. Odds are he performed the banishing himself because either A) He was weary of this abortion of a world or B) It was the unforeseen result of fucking around in Keziah Mason’s attic.

Whatever the case, he has returned to us from beyond time with a new full length album, and for this we are thankful (shut up and repeat after me: WE ARE THANKFUL). Why are we thankful? Because without stepping straight into the light or cleaning up his production, the creature behind Black Cilice (let’s call him “Mr. Black Cilice”) has taken a few intrepid steps forward. Progress: It’s not just for nerds anymore.

Since the release of debut full length A Corpse, A Temple (2011), Mr. Black Cilice has been on a steady tear, releasing a new album every two years. I would not say there’s a palpable difference in aesthetic between the first three albums. They sound more or less the same, and if you don’t spend much time listening to raw, lo-fi black metal then you could be forgiven for mistaking them all for the same exact album. For fans of the style though, your preference among the three most likely hinges on all sorts of unknown variables like how much iron is in your diet, who you voted for in the last mid-term elections or whether or not your mother breast fed you. As a trio, these albums stand as a bold and uncompromising testament to black metal’s pioneering spirit, to its willingness to subvert and pervert, to its insane disregard for its own safety. There is, of course, a bull-headed black metal orthodoxy which stands like a kidney stone in the urinary tract of time, but the fringe is where all the really cool shit is happening. Mr. Black Cilice has been skirting the fringe all along, and with his latest offering, Banished from Time, we are given no reason to believe that he will ever come back.

So, I mentioned that this album constitutes a step forward. It couldn’t have come at a better time, as with the very nearly lackluster Mysteries (2015) the project was in danger of stagnating. Last year’s Nocturnal Mysticism 7” shook up the formula a tad with some introspective clean guitar passages, yet felt ultimately unfinished—perhaps because it was comprised of only two songs, or perhaps there is some substance to my feeling that those songs were underdeveloped sketches. Were they leftover tracks from other recording sessions (i.e. throwaways) or is the truth that the music of Black Cilice requires at least thirty minutes of space in order to achieve wholeness?

No idea. But Banished from Time is at least as satisfying as the first two albums; time may reveal it to be superior. First off, Mr. Black Cilice’s vocals are more intelligible than ever. Which is to say, still not intelligible at all. But whereas in the past he insisted upon yowling at the extreme back of the mix like a eunuch with a toothache, so clouded by reverb that it was difficult to differentiate his voice from peals of feedback from the guitar, his vocals are much closer here. He has traded the amorphous, high-pitched yowling for distorted shouting that is often composed of recognizably human words. It remains impossible to tell whether he is singing in Portuguese or English or just hollering in tongues, but what matters is that he is now a concrete human presence within the maelstrom, and as such he has the power to lead the songs to new heights of blackened delirium. Who knows—this vocal transformation may be the perfect adjustment to bring new fans on board.

Failing that, uh…what if I told you this album has hooks? What if I proclaimed that it has riffs? I mean sure, these hooks and riffs are like wet clay compared to the hook’n’riff sculptures built by less esoteric bands. And sure, the bulk of this album is some murky-ass dungeon-dwelling feelbadery. But then there are breakaway moments like the cinematic chorus to “On the Verge of Madness”. Or the spirited ascent from the dungeon that is “Possessed by Night Spirits,” which is the aural equivalent of flying around naked on a broomstick on the night of the full moon, reveling in the elation of the dusk winds caressing your most tender parts. Or the stupidly headbangable chunk-chunk deployed at the beginning of album closer “Boiling Corpses”. When that song is done rocking your socks off, it melds seamlessly into a heaving climax which I would not hesitate for a second to describe as uplifting. Nostalgic rock riffing yields to a gale of strumming and blasts, guided by a simple yet unforgettable lead melody, and then all of a sudden this riff that was surging horizontally takes a dramatic upward turn, soaring toward the first rays of dawn. The track goes out on a note of gauzy, blissful, warm’n’fuzzy feelings, evoking the image of bright sunlight bursting into a moldering tomb to vanquish every last scrap of shadow. This is the most multi-dimensional composition Mr. Black Cilice has ever attempted, proof positive that he is capable of so much more. And if its prevailing positivity isn’t the result of a beneficial tweak to his dosage of antidepressants, I don’t know what it is.

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I get it. The production is the aural equivalent of a subterranean chamber choked with centuries of cobwebs and will never ever sound any good no matter what device you play it on; the vocals are only relatively tame and still err on the side of psychosis; the musicianship rarely strays from the level of “passable”. Yet beneath all the sonic degradation hide some truly gorgeous songs. Which is the mark of any raw black metal act worth its salt.

4 Out ov 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

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Banished from Time will be released by Iron Bonehead Productions on March 10th, 2017, on CD, LP and tape.

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