Review: Veilburner – Lurkers In The Capsule Of Skull

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We have such sights to show you.


My boyfriend had a car once, a real taped-together life raft to get him to his last couple months of an old job, and this car had a tape player that sounded like someone’s kid had been feeding it old refrigerator magnets as a snack. I swear this player would foam at the slot if it sat too long in the sun. It was too warped and out of balance to play anything clearly, taking my Best Of Alice Cooper cassette and mashing the tunes into a burbling, scurrying pest that was soon regurgitated with its reflective tapey guts hanging out. I can only imagine a similar incident happened to Veilburner at some point in time, because they seem intent on elevating that sonic vivisection into an obsession. To my ears, death metal has never been quite so expressionistic, which is a full semester’s tuition of a word to drop on a record called Lurkers In The Capsule Of Skull.

All I want to talk about is their sound, not their songwriting. Fine-tuned though it may be, I think it’s a little bit above my reading level to try and track the internal order of this material rather than the grotesque, yet enticing, contours that ripple away from it. It’s so twitchy, always ululating, verging on something insectoid in nature. I guess the closest textural foundation to compare would be the kind of winding, near-techy affect of the latest Tomb Mold, but with innards twisted and folded to negative space. The searing hot black metal of Melechesh also matches Veilburner’s guitars for weight and Phrygian thrust, but neither can hold a candle in terms of lurch. The most distinctive trait of Veilburner’s work its peristaltic motion. Some of these riffs seem to bulge in ways I’ve heard nowhere else (at least not so pervasively), using gradual bends, tortured wah-wah, and spasms of the tremolo bar to swell into something uncomfortably 3-dimensional.

Lurkers is that rare record that doesn’t get weaker when it leans on effects over technique, using the guitar as a metamorphic synth unit. There’s quite a few spots, like the crescendos of “Lurkers” itself, that sound like a spirit box channeling a very foreboding harmonica player. I’m also taken with how much the voice of the guitar itself is stretched and varied within what seems like a constricted range. Listening to the solo from “Nocturnal Gold”, one of the few solos on this record even approaching conventional, is like taking Andy Larocque’s whammy-happy leadwork and melting it in the microwave. Multi-instrumental bandleader Mephisto Deleterio is on some alchemical shit here. I can almost imagine his laboratorium, walls smeared with the distortive viscera that spatters from the strings.

Of course, goofing with synths could easily be a curtailed gimmick were the underlying structure not in order, and Veilburner definitely dodge the obvious pitfall of deploying their sorcery without purpose. The interlude jam, “Para-Opaque”, is a desert mirage built on a bassy nod, where the guitar wavers like a sleepwalker with his eyelids twitching. Reaching the rapturous climax of “Cursed, Disfigured, Amen” is like anointing oneself as a born-again Cenobite, a fitting image in more ways than one. Veilburner finds extremity not necessarily in speed, heaviness, or overwrought chaos, but in the twisting of death and black metal flesh into something darkly parodic. Evocative of a familiar being, but exquisitely peeled apart and rewired into an uncanny engine of perverted bliss. This concoction of dissodeath dischordance and effervescent sound sculpting really delivers sonically on the kind of surreal, Lovecraftian wrongness that so many others simply can’t summon, beyond running their megapolysyllabic lyrics through a thesaurus. All throughout, this record is dotted with genuine paranormal events.

What's your pleasure, sir?

What you see when you solve Pinhead’s Puzzle Box

In fact, I feel safe admitting that Lurkers wouldn’t be nearly as effective without that tonal mastery. It’s a little difficult to judge the songwriting, since the aesthetic meat of the album is all so textural. It doesn’t snap back and forth directionally the way that Blood Incantation or that new Devoid Of Thought do. Rather, it’s about scratched-out abrasive streaks, choosing one dissonant thought and peppering it in between muted, hummingbird-heartbeat tremolo. The entire trip recalls something like Beyond The Black Rainbow or some kind of art horror. Thwarted pattern recognition and tricks of perception are the techniques at work here, rather than a comprehensible monster with motivations and screen presence. It is at once assault and seduction of your senses. Perplexing, bewildering, even carnal in its uninhibited throes. Everything you hear is distorted through a curved lens, and when it’s over, the real world might feel a little too linear to be trusted.

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