Review: Unaussprechlichen Kulten – Teufelsbücher
Some people hear Chile in association with death metal and think of fantastic bands such as Pentagram and Dominus Xul. Some people, who I think are sadly ignorant of one of the world’s richest metal scenes, don’t think of much at all. Unaussprechlichen Kulten are firmly on my list of classic Chilean bands worth listening to. Much like Drawn and Quartered and Funebrarum, they’ve been operating since the ‘90s but got started just a little too late to be considered a classic band, or to debut when their style of death metal had many fans active. Add that to the issues that all South Americans have with breaking out and you get one of death metal’s most consistent and killer bands being sadly unappreciated in the larger scene, something that I hope will finally change with the band’s fifth full-length album, Teufelsbücher.
In my review of Unaussprechlichen Kulten’s last album, I noted that the core of their sound was rooted in the classic Immolation formula. While you can still hear that (sort of), this isn’t really the case anymore. Focusing entirely on the riffs and ignoring the drumming and vocals, it becomes apparent that Kulten no longer really do that. There’s a relative lack of “brutal” riffs at this point, replaced instead by angular, creepy staccato leads, tremolo melodies, and distressing off-kilter rhythms that often don’t really match up guitar to guitar. Nothing is simple anymore, with every single thing being played on the guitar standing in stark contrast to what the band was playing a decade ago; even when the guitars fall a little more in line with something more conventional, they’re usually not playing the same notes, lending themselves to the horrifying atmosphere that Unaussprechlichen Kulten creates.
Every song on Teufelsbücher is a long one, which also stands in opposition to the early years of the band. I noted when Keziah Lilith Medea came out that they had written their longest song, clocking in at around seven and a half minutes. Now, only two of the six songs are under that approximate length, and even those aren’t short ones. Because the drumming and vocals root the material more firmly in death metal, it’s easy to not notice the sheer complexity of the songwriting in a casual listen, but the song lengths are really necessary to let everything going on breathe; where a lesser band’s long songs might be due to bloat or indecision, Unaussprechlichen Kulten use every note to its fullest effect, bouncing constantly between different tempos and ideas, sometimes stringing along sections by no more of a cord than strained vocals or a haunting melody played alone.
Each instrument on Unaussprechlichen Kulten speaks to the mastery of music that the band has achieved over the long years that they’ve been playing. The drums are as frantic as the guitars, changing beats and tempos as fluidly as I’ve ever heard in death metal to keep the entire package from going off the rails. The bass provides a solid rhythmic backing without losing power, infrequent synths don’t overpower when they pop in, and the vocals are deep and clear without losing intelligibility; the production that allows everything to be audible should be applauded nearly as much as the music, because it can’t be easy to mix something this dense. A final commendation goes to the fantastic artwork from Rodrigo Pereira, who seems relatively unknown outside of his country but is definitely one of the best in the industry right now.
Unaussprechlichen Kulten was already possibly my favorite active Chilean band before Teufelsbücher, but now they definitely are, even over more venerated acts from their country—hell, they’re one of the best in the game worldwide right now. These guys are absolutely insane and deserve every bit of attention that lesser bands are getting right now, and I can’t wait to see them live next month. This is the band to sell your soul to as you sink into the depths of death metal despair, for you’ll never be their match—they are Unaussprechlichen Kulten, and they’re here to stay.