Death. Void. Terror. – To the Great Monolith II [Things You Might Have Missed 2020]

One of my main motivations regarding black metal is finding albums like this. Offerings from Ancient Moon, Dolorian, or Amnutseba have come close, hinting at a devastatingly empty atmosphere and pitch-black density through aural executions of dread that invoke the feeling of drifting in the eternal void. Attempts have never really hit the sweet spot, until Death. Void. Terror.‘s 2018 debut To the Great Monolith. This enigmatic and anonymous Swiss collective (associated with the Helvetic Underground Committee) pounced upon my ears with a blackened offering that defied explanation or pigeonholing. Deceptively disheveled and droning at first glance, its formidable chaotic and ritualistic elements emerged from the turbid depths with microscopic precision. And its successor is no exception.

To the Great Monolith‘s greatest asset is its contrast between chaos and precision, plodding and scathing, and at times simultaneously. It’s only fair then that is successor enhances this quality in a surprisingly restrained offering that stakes a step forward: To the Great Monolith II‘s four tracks are surprisingly gentle and sanguine compared to the unrelenting pitch-black atmosphere of its predecessor. While its plodding and murky throes are as, if not more, opaque, its emphasis on nearly liturgical interpretations bring it to another level of eerie. Certainly, comparisons between Grave Upheaval, Batushka, Deathspell Omega, and Dolorian are certainly warranted, but none feel complete. What results is, albeit differing from its predecessor, a truly ominous and stunning piece of blackened music.

A sort of new element of Death. Void. Terror.‘s repertoire is its choral textures and clean Gregorian chant style. While foreboding first track “(- — -)” pays homage to the collective’s doomier passages, these newfound elements show the band’s emphasis on dynamics and restraint: it’s not just chaotic murky black metal on full blast. “(- —)” and “(– – –)” are the most explicitly “blackened” of the bunch (the latter being the closest similarity to the band’s debut), relying on blastbeats, blackened shrieks, and dense ambiance, all buried beneath impenetrable murk and emphasized by its vocal and choral style. Closer “(– –)” channels dissonant earworms reminiscent of Saltas or Wormlust in a stunningly visceral experience that simultaneously pays homage and pushes their style to the brink of madness. While To the Great Monolith was an unceasing blaster of murky black/doom, the sophomore effort’s usage of choral textures and restrained ambiance show dynamics unheard of in much of blackened music.

Death. Void. Terror.‘s trademark opaqueness, like their debut, is To the Great Monolith II‘s biggest selling point. It’s an incredibly inaccessible album that buries any “accessible” dissonant blackened doom tricks beneath a thick layer of haze and ritualistic repetition. Comparisons to other acts are fair, but only go so far. While many albums come and go and I can only think of what or who they reminded me of, To the Great Monolith II, like its predecessor, hits with a depth that makes me feel like I’ve experienced something that words cannot adequately describe. But unlike the collective’s debut, Death. Void. Terror. has crafted a more insidious listen, curling up under your skin and living there, entrancing and maddening in equal measure. While it’s certainly an album deserving repeated listens to peel back its many bloody layers to expose its rewards, it’s certainly a feasible task at forty-three minutes. Disguising malevolent and venomous intent with dynamic songwriting and deceptively melodic textures, To the Great Monolith II is worth a black-hole spot on your year-end lists.

Songs to Get Sucked into Black Holes To: All four of the dashing tracks.

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