Album Review: ÆVANGELIST Writhes in the Murk
The stories of influential 20th century horror writer H.P. Lovecraft are packed with references to cosmic monstrosities so hideous that the mere site of one is enough to drive a person insane. The father of these atrocities is a being called Azathoth. In the mythology created by Lovecraft, Azathoth exists outside time and space in a realm of chaos at the center of infinity. Azathoth, the blind idiot god, is attended by a,"flopping horde of mindless and amorphous dancers" who ceaselessly play music for him. Lovecraft describes the music as, "the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes." Although the music of Ævangelist can't rightly be described in this way, it's not hard to imagine that the songs on Writhes in the Murk would be equally pleasing to an amorphous daemon-sultan too horrible to describe.
In the most basic terms, Ævangelist is a black/death band. The music this duo creates is similar to the racket that Teitanblood belched into the world when they released Death earlier this year, but it's even more dissonant, weird, and chaotic. While Teitanblood strove to create one of the most primal black/death albums ever, Ævangelist are expanding the style almost to its breaking point. Like it's predecessor, 2013's Omen Ex Simulacra, Writhes in the Murk is punishingly dense and experimental. This is an album that's going to be impenetrable to almost everyone upon first listen – think Blut Aus Nord at their most outré combined with barbarous death metal.
Like Lovecraft's god of chaos, the music of Ævangelist defies description. Each song on the album consists of layer upon layer of pounding drums, multiple vocal styles, grinding guitars, industrial noise, and the occasional saxophone. There's almost nothing natural sounding to be found, and the level of studio editing necessary to produce the songs on Writhes in the Murk gives the album a decidedly mechanized feel. However, the entire thing ceaselessly heaves and jerks like an organic monstrosity as well. It's a weird dichotomy that serves to accentuate just how ugly and otherworldly the music really is.
Ugly and otherworldly may even be understatements. When experienced in the dark with headphones on, this music is genuinely frightening. There are plenty of try-hards in the extreme metal scene attempting to upset listeners with songs about the boogeyman in red pajamas, but this is the real deal. Ævangelist's music inspires the same kind of dread you feel in a dimly lit basement or when something brushes against your leg when you're swimming in the ocean. The songs on this album are so alien that it's easy to forget that two guys from America wrote and recorded this music.
Provoking an emotional response is not the be-all-end-all of a good album, though, and Writhes in the Murk falls short of greatness for several reasons. It's most glaring fault is its aforementioned impenetrability. For all intents and purposes, the entire album is just one long blast of noise. There's usually some form of rhythmic or melodic backbone to propel each song forward, but it's buried beneath distorted vocals and a swirling musical cacophony. Even the saxophone solo midway through "Ælixir" sounds shrill and off-kilter. Another stumbling block is the fact that the album doesn't have any discernible tracks. The album is broken up into songs like a traditional album, but, unless you're intimately familiar with the album, there's no way to tell what song is playing at any given time. This isn't necessarily a bad thing if you're in the mood to listen to an hour of uninterrupted noise, but Writhes in the Dark doesn't work very well as a collection of individual songs.
It's hard to label this album "Good" or "Bad." Listening isn't intended to be a pleasant experience, and making it through this beast will definitely be a tall order for even the most ardent fans of extremity. If you think you've got the fortitude, Writhes in the Murk will be available through Hell's Headbangers Records on October 21st.