Voidhanger double feature, pt. 2: Feral Light and THOS ÆLLA
As my esteemed colleague Hans suggested a few weeks ago, I’m a big fat coward who can’t stomach Polish avant-garde weirdness. I’m a simple man, who takes comfort in simple things, like pilsners, hard cheeses, and mildly scented handmade soaps. Thankfully our pal Luciano at I, Voidhanger was looking out for simple fellas like me with the latest releases from Feral Light and THOS ÆLLA. No drone jazz freak outs, esoteric piano dirges, or Symbolist French poets here. Nosiree, the second half of our Q1 2022 Voidhanger double feature is back-to-back, good ole fashioned Real Rocker Shit™.
Feral Light — Psychic Contortions
Ever wonder what black metal would sound like with riffs? I did too, until I heard Feral Light’s Psychic Contortions.
Psychic Contortions is like Feral Light spiked a rustic French boule with pumpernickel flour: they’ve produced a delightfully crusty loaf, but one possessive of a sharp, blackened bite and a moist, dense crumb atypical of traditional boule. It’s the blackest crust you’ll hear all year, folks (alternatively the most encrusted black metal). No I have no idea why under normal circumstances you’d bake a pumpernickel boule. No I’m not sure how this pained, yeasty metaphor translates to additional meaningful commentary on Psychic Contortions other production and sonic qualities. I’m just kinda hungry, ok??
Anyways, it’s black metal that’s kind of crusty. Call it black n’ roll like the nerds over at Metal Archives if you must, just know It Riffs. So let’s talk riffs a moment. I like them, you like them (that’s conceivably why you read this Toilet Fetish blog), and Feral Light have got ‘em. Massive ones, spindly spidery ones, sludgy stompy ones, melodic ones, discordant ones, ones for feeling grim, maybe even a little bit trve, and ones for gazing at your shoes. That absolute humdinger at 3:05 of “Ills of Closure?” My Riff of the Year so far. Sounds like a massive choice cut from Remission era Mastodon (RIP). The one that opens the album on first track Enveloped and Transformed? Stuck in my head for two weeks and counting. Cool shit. The kinda skronky reworking of “Wells of Blackness’” opening at about :30 and the dissonant Suffering Hour-isms of “Self Disavow?” Just absolutely nasty. Feral Light are clearly generating music in some sort of idealized, post-riff scarcity environment.
Clocking in at a punchy 35 minutes, Psychic Contortions’ 7 songs breeze by (yes, even the atmospheric outro), leaving you wanting more to sink your teeth into. I really dig how the punchy, clear production job lets the propulsive drumming and bass shine through the grime, and doesn’t let the crunchy lead guitar suck all of the oxygen out of the room. It’s also a testament to these two musician’s chops that the deceptively few instrumental layers yield such an engaging listen, with repeat spins uncovering nuances and musical interplay that you may not have heard on the first go; e.g. the sick nasty, jangly backing guitar track in “Attainment.”
Going back to my crumby metaphor, maybe the loaf density of our rye’d up boule represents the high quantity of top tier riffs per minute? Maybe repeat tastes of that sharp loaf yielding hidden and beautifully blended flavors is the surprising musical depth and layering? Or perhaps I should make sure to have a snack while writing and you should make sure to run on over to Bandcamp to snag this fresh blackened delight.
4.5 out ov 5
THOS ÆLLA — Sempiternal Mobocracies
Beautiful acoustic guitar gives way to the gentle patter of rain and passionate swell of strings, a melancholic scene unveiling and spilling its rich tapestry before you… until the keening shriek of guitar tears through the scene like a giant flying reptile soaring through a fantastical, vibrant alien sky*.
THOS ÆLLA have once again pulled out the death-tinged melodic power shreddin’ big guns, people. It’s got your melodic death metal-by-way-of Gothenburg sweeping leads and clean solos. It’s got the soul-thrashing-black-sorcery of Skeletonwitch and Desaster. Sometimes all of this in a single song (see: “Bloodlust Inamorata“)! You’ll hear deathly rasps, Quorthon wails, and every iteration between. Would it be fair to call this power metal with nastier vocals and fewer dragons? Maybe. Listen past it’s growls n’ howls this strikes me as a capital H heavy metal record through and through. Think the melting pot of styles encompassed by early Dawnbringer and Hammers of Misfortune (or Unholy Cadaver as it were). The growls are feint so the ear worm leads ensconced in this bad boy can wriggle and seethe down your ear canal and sink their rostellular hooks into your vulnerable brain.
Although most of Sempiternal Mobocracies moves forward at a breakneck pace, “Backwards Afterbirth Flows Unto Dreaming Temples” (great song titles abounds btw**) shows Ghoul isn’t afraid to slow things down to a Rotting Christ-esque march to give his spicy leads n’ solos some breathing room. My one minor complaint with the album is that it could have slowed things down a few more times to elevate and heighten all of the unhinged, rapid fire fretboard wizardry it’s got going on throughout its 48 minutes. Personal preferences aside sometimes you gotta go fast, so if you have a Need 4 Speed you’re in for a real treat with Sempiternal Mobocracies.
4 out ov 5
Psychic Contortions and Sempiternal Mobocracies are out now through I, Voidhanger. You can nab ‘em via the label or over at the bands’ personal BC pages. Keep an eye out for physical releases at I, Voidhanger’s merch store.
*Apologies I just watched the Avatar 2 teaser trailer.
** you know it’s gonna be a good album when you’re googling words like “inamorata” and “sempiternal”