Edvard Munch’s series of paintings, The Scream, has long held a fascination for me, from Munch’s depiction of the blood red sky to the raw emotion and suffering in the screamers eyes, as images they’re almost stifling to look at. Cerekloth have taken The Scream a step further. They’ve intensified the colors, honed in on the screamer, they’ve given you a passage into where this torture is coming from and they’ve added a bone chilling soundtrack – life meets art? Bursting onto the scene back in 2008 after putting blackened death outfit Church Bizarre temporarily on ice, the release of the debut EP Pandemonium Prayers saw Cerekloth added to Hells Headbangers for the release of a demo and an additional EP Halo of Syringes. And now a full 5 years later, Denmark based Cerekloth return with the Reaper in toe driving it home that death is a part of life, putting death and darkness back into death metal with In the Midst of Life We are in Death. Color me embarrassed for letting this devastating collaboration of aggression and chilling sensations slip through the cracks and go unnoticed!
In the Midst of Life We are in Death is a musical vortex that brings to mind a mash-up between the intricacies and dark discordance of Svart Crown and heaviness and despondency of Loss. Instrumentally Allan Larsen (Alter of Oblivion and Church Bizarre) and Morten Adsersen have found a winning formula, they combine repetitive, melodic rhythm guitar lines with dissonant, twisted, hypnotizing solos that add a healthy dose of dis-harmonic tension and pain.
It’s tough to single out specific moments that stand out on the album because each track packs something unique and unsettling, setting it apart from the next – take “Halo of Syringes” for example. As this track opens, I can almost hear the words ‘Hello Xavier, I want to play a game…‘, I can’t help but think of the needle pit in Saw II, of Xavier throwing Amanda into the very same pit of squalor that his customers writhe in. Or the bitter, thick, forlorn Loss-like feel of “Mesmerizing Holy Death” and “The Reapers Instant is Our Eternity” that brings to mind something Nietzsche said – ‘if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you‘. Before you know it Cerekloth‘s slow, deliberate distortion and Nis Larsen’s crawling, crisp drum lines combined with Martin Andersen’s bass will have you convinced life is no longer worth living.
Cerekloth use a dual vocal style with cavernous growls being very much the focus. Jens Pedersen (Church Bizarre, Victimizer and ex-Kill) has a vocal style that reminds me of a mixture of Mike Meacham’s hollow and large growls in Loss with the balance and right pitch of Tuomas Saukkonen (Wolfheart, ex-Before the Dawn, ex-Black Sun Aeon, ex-Dawn of Solace and ex-RoutaSielu). The subject matter of In the Midst of Life We are in Death centers on Jens own struggles with chronic illness along with such heavy subjects as urban decay, drug abuse, mental illness, spiritual death and the occult, dreams and the subconscious. Jens drags you along into his inescapable personal hell with tracks like “Halo of Syringes”, “Mesmerizing Holy Death”, “When Outcast Become Kings” and “The Reapers Instant is Our Eternity” slowly and deliberately and with a heaviness much like that feeling you have when you drag a body behind you through the woods only cut into by Martin Andersen’s harrowing almost whispered screams.
I love the production and mix Emil Sauer used on the album – his motto of keeping the focus on the melodies, hooks, riffs, grooves and story see that Cerekloth are presented in the best possible light. In the Midst of Life We are in Death feels well balanced to the ear, with vocals pushed only very slightly to the fore. Having neither a particularly modern, nor a particularly old-school sound, Cerekloth have struck a nice balance with their death metal that will leave me hard pressed not to add this album to my top ten at the end of the year. [If you get too depressed by the music, buy this! — Steel Druhm].