Review: Dewfall – Hermeticus
At the crest of the hill, the king removes the hood from his falcon. Instincts return in a flood as it takes flight, surveying the valley below: air, earth and the shivering bodies of prey. With singular focus, the bird plummets to the ground, catching a rabbit with its talons and delivering a fatal bite to the neck. The king is pleased with the result of the hunt—undoubtedly seeing parallels between himself and the falcon’s dominion of the land.
Dewfall strike with similar determination on their new LP, Hermeticus. Written as an ode to Frederick II (and his lasting impact on Italian culture), the album is as complex and unorthodox as the man that inspired it, melding melodic black metal with a profusion of ideas.
An aura of antiquity enshrouds the songs from the start; while flute and jaw harp feature in “The Abomination Throne,” the band never relies on auxiliary instruments to achieve their medieval sound. Flavio Paterno’s tremolo riffs have a triumphant (almost pompous) quality to them, calling to mind the fanfare of a royal family—there’s a moment in “Murex Hermetica” where reverb effects on the guitars mimic the distant call of trumpets. The setting created by the music leads to scattered moments of synesthesia: a long string bend in “The Abomination Throne” becomes a vision of an archer pulling back the twine of his bow, followed by the twang of a noise chord as an arrow whistles away. Ghostly clean vocals fade in and out, evoking layers of dust in ruined fortresses and the wandering spirits of ancestors.
Atmosphere alone is rarely enough to carry an hour-long album; thankfully, Dewfall combine their ancient ambience with songwriting chops. From the grinding death metal riffing in “The Eternal Flame of Athanor,” to the classic rock-influenced solo in “Murex Hermetica,” each track is studded with memorable moments like jewels in the royal crown. The songs transition between genres with confidence, avoiding cluttered composition by allowing time for each idea to make an impact before moving on. In the few cases that sections are repeated, the repetition is used to entrance, as in the extended blasting section in “Monolithic Dome.” Antonio Lacoppola’s drums numb listeners with their intensity, and in combination with dispirited riffs and vocals, the band manages to make blackgaze not only palatable, but as deeply affecting as the genre tries (and most often fails) to be.
Tempos shift as often as genres throughout the entirety of Hermeticus, fending off listening fatigue. “Moondagger” flows effortlessly from its chugging intro into simple punk rhythms before capping off with soulful grooves that highlight Saverio Fiore’s basslines. All of these moving pieces are held together by the album’s excellent production, which handles fragile and violent sounds with equal clarity. The delicate layering of clean and distorted guitars echoes Nechochwen‘s ethos, while the punchy drums and balance of intricate harmonies recalls Colin Marston‘s work with Anicon.
One by one, the reagents are added to the alchemical furnace. History, language and music from different lands and eras coalesce in a single entity: Hermeticus. With the process complete, vapors rise from the chamber, forming the outline of a man, scepter in hand. A falcon cries in the distance as the figure dissipates – the stupor mundi, the wonder of the world.