New year, new me, so they say. In 2018 I’m going to root myself deeply into a black metal chasm. Too often black metal albums are left to rot in the pits of the promo bin. Things must change! On behalf of the forgotten, I’ve made a resolution to pick from the black metal bones in the hope of extracting a smidgen of excellency from these rotting vessels. Enter the long-form, cavernous, winding noise of Without Self, Nor Veil, the debut album by Entheogen. Don’t be fooled though, this four piece are experienced black metal necromancers, having featured in such bands as Chaos Moon, Manetheren, Skáphe and Krieg. Along those lines, their sound is an assimilation of the aforementioned bands – unorthodox and writhing – alongside the styles of the flagbearers of this ‘style’ – Deathspell Omega and Leviathan specifically. Prepare to have your pants singed to a cosmic crisp, for Entheogen take no prisoners.
40-minutes of blazing intensity and subtle solemnity aptly sums up the main groove of Without Self, Nor Veil. The album alternates between chaotic spasms of sound akin to Krallice and atmospheric wisps laced with half-melodies and eerie warmth. The whole thing is enshrouded by a sheen of ambient noise, sounding somewhat like the swirling vortex of an icy incantation. Similarly, the vocals and guitars stab, writhe and submerge the mix in a cold and hostile sheen. It’s nothing new, distracting or outrageously enticing for this style, but it serves its purpose. It has depth and nuance, with a DR9 to boot, which allows the atmospheric touches to float unhindered beneath the black-metal maelstrom. Opener “Desolation Lyre” exemplifies this. A spasm of chaos follows a soft, alluring opening. Clasped in the arms of vast, echoing tremolo shards, the bass bubbles incrementally amongst the incessant drill of drums and riffs. Croaking fragments, more fluid and less restricted, float into the ether as the song reaches its conclusion. Here, the song begins to unravel, as if the steam from the tightly woven spell begins to smother the scene.
“Sol Genesis” follows the hex as it cascades through the realm to reach its target. The song, a tempest, is a thunderous chug of multi-layered, echoing guitar work, ambient noise, and croaking vocals. Riffs are fragmentary and elusive; there’s no real origin or end to them, they just seem to careen into existence and fade without warning. It makes for a disorienting listen, one that attacks the senses from all dimensions. The tenderness of the drumming, expressive and subtle, as the song becomes softer and less abrasive, counteracts the opening four minutes cleverly. Similarly, “Lethean Throat” layers malice upon malice as its wash of downcast tremolo, laced with shards and fragments, ricochet off the pounding drumbeats like sparks. At the fore, the heavier drench of atmospheric noise – vocal lamentations and keyboard whirring – and constant shriek of vocals – quiet, buried, but potent – submerge the song, forming a dense atmosphere that intensifies the album’s disorienting nature.
In the opening of excellent closer “Pall” vocals echo and reverberate with evil power, bouncing off the more subdued riffing and drilled spurts of blast beats. Soon, there’s a quick, yet fluid, changeover to a riffing style of the more technical variety, espousing elements of dissonant death-metal especially, before quickly changing over again to a less abrasive section reminiscent of the twinkling guitar lines of Blut Aus Nord. In “Pall”‘s second half, an ambient interlude hearkens back to the early 90s, book-ending a maelstrom of noise and providing solemn respite, bringing an end to the chaos. Entheogen transition from moment to moment well enough, something that is vital for this style. They do this without completely dismantling and disrupting the flow of the song, although there’s little in terms of cohesiveness to really dismantle.
Entheogen have rammed a lot into Without Self, Nor Veil. A bit too much. It’s dense and constant, crammed with brilliant ideas that have been nullified, somewhat, by the overcrowding. There are so many great strands of riffs to pick out, digest, and adore, but these are often too brief to truly consume. It’s like being on a guided tour of a gallery. You’re wanting to really get close to the detail in the corner of a painting, but your tour guide is frantically dragging you around each of the paintings, giving you a cursory taster but not allowing you to really discover the beauty for yourself. I wouldn’t say I’ve been left feeling empty or disappointed. There is too much here to be impressed by. However, this feels like a trailer without the appearance feature film to cure the itch. Hopefully this will be remedied in the future.