Any release from I, Voidhanger Records jumps out at me like a cosmic beacon. Under their roof the weird and wonderful, the outcasts and savants, and the surreal and deranged take solace. A particular black-metal sub-set of this strange label focus their attention on the vast mysteries of space paired with dreams and incorporeal concepts. Deep. Spectral Lore, Mare Cognitum, and Midnight Odyssey form an interplanetary trio at the core of the label, but another body is gravitating towards them. From the void Esoctrilihum emerges, seeking to open the gates to otherworldly dimensions. Esoctrilihum, with their (his) debut Mystic Echo from a Funeral Dimension, explore “the obscure lands existing between dream and death to unveil the unfathomable secrets that tie Nature and Man together.” I, Voidhanger are very good at promoting their bands, very good at creating enticing mythos’, building intrigue, and drawing in a listener with vibrant art-work and concepts. Mystic Echo from a Funeral Dimension has been given this treatment and I, Voidhanger have drawn me in. The actual musical product, though, has to live up to these lofty heights. Is this 2017’s III by Spectral Lore or is this destined to float in the void of the forgotten?
Spectral Lore’s III and Mare Cognitum’s Phobos Monolith are two albums that are a short climb away from the pinnacle of this dream-based metal. Mystic Echo from a Funeral Dimension shows flashes of the above’s brilliance, but rarely. For example, the opening to “Infernus Spiritus” is engrossing. The jagged, glitchy effect of vocals eerily merging with the off-tune keys and bass, accompanied by another layer of whispered growls, works to wonderful effect. However, this moment is buffered by generic black metal. The song fades into a generic mid-section before it picks up again towards its end at the nine-minute point. The guitars, in this latter section, act as an accessory rather than the main attraction; it’s at this point when the album succeeds. Here, the discomforting vocals fade in and out with a demonic vitriol, the clawing ambient noise working to intensify this, and the semi-grooves of the buried guitars supply an urgency and aggression that supplements the rest well.
Riff-wise, Esoctrilihum lends a lot from the abrasive styles of black metal’s second wave bands. Its ambient sections also lend somewhat from bands like Emperor and Lunar Aurora. It’s the merging of the two that doesn’t work. Isolated, they stand alone as being quite strong, but often as one passage gets going it’s swiftly ditched for another. The ambient sections of the album are particularly engrossing as individual sections. The dreamy echoing interlude in “Ancient Ceremony From Astral Land” and the very similar passage in “Following The Mystical Light Of The Shadow” specifically. The use of keys and electronics as the focal point, rather than guitars and mayhem, suit the concept much better. Being anchored to black-metal is perhaps to album’s detriment. An ambient record that maintains the growls and bellows, bass patterns and drumming, would make this a much more consistent record in my opinion.
The solely black-metal tracks at the back-end of the album, though, are successful because Esoctrilihum stick to one style. “bltQb (Black Collapse)” opens with urgency and unadulterated aggression: layered vocals – snarled and growled, rapid shards of tremolo riffing, and quick-fire drumming cascade into a chaotic yet engrossing mess. Then the song slows into doomier territories, etched with peculiar backwards sound and deep vocals. The appearance of a classical guitar spices up proceedings considerably, though it feels forced. Things take an even more chaotic turn at the mid-way point with all instruments melting into one. This makes way for a fat and simple blackened groove that itself makes way for further messiness. It’s nine-plus minutes of guitar-led chaos that works as a unit well. It may be the strongest song on the album because it knows what it is and what it wants: chaos.
Esoctrilihums’ long-winded black-metal is exactly that. Vast ambient passages seep into cavernous sections of raw black-metal. Cavernous sections of raw black-metal hastily splice into rough drawls of difficult-to-describe extreme-metal nonsense. This is an inconsistently produced beast, made up of a trillion ideas and sounds stitched together without much care for flow or direction. It’s a long hour. There’s great stuff, but by the time a listener trudges through the blind mire to get to the great stuff it’s all too late. There’s just too many scotch-taped passages and ideas for the concept to vividly grasp the imagination. Faint promise clings to the void of the dream realm.