Review: Ch’ahomKnots of Abhorrence

1269
0
Share:

For as much good war/bestial black metal there is out there, it’s kind of an accepted truth that much of it follows a standard formula of putting brutality above all else. Sure, there are some deviations here and there, but even all these years later, the stylistic blueprint put in place by the likes of Beherit and Blasphemy remains as prominent as ever. Now, there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with this, but it’s important context to consider when examining what makes Knots of Abhorrence, the explosive full-length debut from Germany’s Ch’ahom, such a remarkable effort.

Founded in 2015, Ch’ahom spent much of the past several years churning out more than a few quality demos and EP, containing some solid enough original tracks and a couple of covers (of Sadomator and Sadogoat tracks specifically). Even during this period of time, one could see that Ch’ahom was gradually fleshing out its own identity, leaning more into its Meso-American themes and expanding into more adventurous and ambitious song structures and genre influences with every subsequent release. That Sentient Ruin released Knots of Abhorrence can be read as the culmination of Ch’ahom’s long-term evolution from another war metal band with a cool gimmick to the masterminds behind one of 2023’s sleeper extreme metal gems.

But don’t get the wrong impression: Knots of Abhorrence is still an absolute pummeler of a release, packing all the guttural howls, relentless percussion, and grimy, buzzsaw guitars that war/bestial black metal is known for. What separates it from contemporaries is its implementation of other, arguably contrasting subgenres, namely the grotesque and dizzying technical death metal pioneered in the ’90s by Timeghoul and Demilich. Even with these twists and turns added into the mix, Ch’ahom doesn’t sacrifice an ounce of brutality, in part as a result of all its work from over the better part of a decade coming to a head, as well as a result of revisiting and iterating on its previous works.

The 5 tracks comprising the 41-minute runtime of Knots of Abhorrence are a combination of both all-new material as well as reimagined versions of several previously released tracks. Those re-recorded cuts (“Xibalba” & “Path to Ixtab”) are especially impressive in their own right in how they represent Ch’ahom’s growth over the years. The original versions are directly cavernous, cacophonous, and raw, but their counterparts on Knots of Abhorrence are haunting and layered in ways that let Ch’ahom’s proggy take on war metal spread its wings. For example, “Xibalba” showcases this really compelling interplay of pummeling grooves and psychedelic guitar leads that were previously obscured by its original version’s sheer and unfiltered brutality.

The new tracks shared by Ch’ahom on the LP are damn impressive too. “Chavín de Huántar” is probably the track that’s the closest facsimile to the band’s ’90s death metal influences, with an added dash of modern progressive death metal a la Blood Incantation thrown into the mix as well. Every minute or so, Ch’ahom add some twists and turns to the track, ranging from refrains of ritualistic percussion with wailing vocals and whispers to whirlwinds of guitar arpeggios. The centerpiece here is the two-part title track, which when contextualized into its gargantuan, combined runtime of 17 minutes, is a nightmarish vortex of psychedelic-tinged blackened death metal, replete in equal parts bestial ferocity, foreboding atmosphere, and distinct character.

I use the term character intentionally here, as this is arguably what will be the main sticking point to most people’s enjoyment of Knots of Abhorrence. While Ch’ahom has leaned into its lyrical subject matter of pre-Columbian culture since day one, Knots of Abhorrence is easily the most forward the band has leaned into this theming thus far, with each of the album’s 5 tracks opening with flavorfully ritualistic passages of percussion and flutes, all played by the band’s members on traditional Meso-American instruments. While this isn’t an issue or fault in its own right, it does come off as ever so slightly peculiar for a band composed of some German guys to push this aspect of Ch’ahom to such an extent. Though it seems to come from a place of fascination for the subject matter as opposed to insensitively masquerading in another’s culture, everyone’s tolerance for this sort of thing will vary here and is at least worth acknowledging.

That caveat aside, Ch’ahom’s debut full-length record is a special release, and not just because it is a killer extreme metal album by its own merit. What makes Knots of Abhorrence so special is the fact that it looks back on Ch’ahom’s whole history and recontextualizes its past for the present, where the band’s vision has since blossomed into something as successfully ambitious as it is uniquely compelling. True, some of that impact comes from witnessing Ch’ahom evolution first-hand, but there is no denying that the final product here is damn impressive in its own right.

4/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

Knots of Abhorrence is out now on Bandcamp.

Did you dig this? Take a second to support Toilet ov Hell on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!