I’ve always considered myself very fortunate in my taste in metal. Mostly because I’m eclectic enough that I don’t easily bore. I can while away many an hour poring over platters of traditional and retro fare. On the other hand, conceptually opaque music has always fascinated me because it represents an opportunity to learn. Slovakia’s Ceremony of Silence know a little something about the esoteric and are more than willing to share their expertise on debut Oútis. This offensively talented duo play a particularly mercurial brand of blackened death metal. One that places great emphasis on dissonance and a technically primed cacophony. Music of this kind is always something of a balancing act. Those well-honed characteristics that inform our genre preferences are often deliberately buried, but very few bands can do so and remain unscathed1. The key to success lies in balance. An element Oútis fortunately wields with wisdom.
As the dread Kronos himself noted, Ceremony of Silence bear a striking stylistic resemblance to Sunless. But in place of that band’s more robust riff practice, Oútis showcases a much more fluid approach. “Invocation of the Silent Eye” puts on a display of swirling rhythmic changes that ascend and descend, spider-like in motion. The song also breaks into moments of cyclical chord progressions, which is where the band do their smartest work. The material uses these brief repetitions to either lay mesmeric blackened sequences or burly death metal grooves. The songs are more memorable for their inclusion but by contrast, this fleeting clarity is what defines the more profuse ambiguity. The dichotomy is positively magnetic.
Vilozof is a busy man balancing the roles of vocalist, bassist and, perhaps most importantly, guitarist. Although his vocals are somewhat monotone, his lead work is anything but. “Ceremony of a Thousand Stars” doles out more of the off-kilter din fans of Immolation will know and love. Before its close, a lilting lead kicks in and immediately elevates the song. This is the album’s signature move. The respective tech brutality and atonal murk of “Black Sea of Drought” and “Arising of No Man” are both interrupted by captivating unconventional soloing. Unfortunately, the band’s nature sometimes works against them. Oútis is very specific in its audience. Those who crave melody and familiar structures will almost certainly struggle to tackle some of the album’s complex motifs. An issue compounded by the record’s slight tendency to bleed together in its second half. Still, diversity makes itself known in the atmospheric aside “Upon the Shores of Death.” A haunting elegy that offers the chance to breathe before the next exhalation of gravity-warping pressure.
Oútis is tumultuous by nature. Vilozof’s vocals knowingly sit low in the mix so as to emphasize the instrumentation. His bass work is as adept as his riffing and waxes and wanes between Svjatogor’s drums and the frenetic guitar lines. While Vilozof’s stirring leads garner the most attention, Svjatogor’s turn behind the kit does not go unnoticed. Clearly a pupil of the Sandoval school of rhythm, his style utilizes air-tight blasting and a militaristic kick. But his fills are the real star, full of half-beats and improvised runs. Arguably, this is an album that could equally be enjoyed were it instrumental. As it is, the inclusion of vocals simply provides an, albeit subtle, bonus.
Ceremony of Silence are innately possessed of a lofty caliber. Their product isn’t accessible, but never entirely impenetrable, either. Instead, they let their nuance and natural skill do the heavy lifting. The music doesn’t make for easy listening but, with a careful ear, it provides ample opportunity for both deep immersion and raucous neck wrecking. During my time with Oútis, I encountered a bold sense of identity. Like most debuts, it occasionally hews a little too close to some of its influences. But there remains a very clear sense of self. One which I am sure will only further define as Ceremony of Silence continue to conduct their immutable proceedings.