Esoctrilihum – Consecration of the Spiritüs Flesh Review

I’m not convinced that Asthâghul—the mysterious figure behind avant-garde black/death project Esoctrilihum—is even human. This latest LP marks their seventh in only five years, following a slew of offerings each more complex and demented than the last. Whatever demons of inspiration are clamoring to channel themselves through these weird soundscapes, they show no signs of slowing down. It’s a cycle of such maddening inexorability, that former overseer of this prolific act, Cherd, has this time relinquished responsibility. It now falls to me to attempt to chronicle and demystify this year’s eccentric tale, disconcertingly described as some of the “most violent and nihilistic” music Esoctrilihum has ever composed. What ever did I get myself into?

Consecration of the Spiritüs Flesh is considerably shorter than previous epics, clocking in somewhere between 40 and 45 minutes. Don’t let that fool you. What it lacks in proportion, it makes up for in intensity. Damnation, self-mutilation, and torture are prominent themes in this latest vision, or nightmare. If you’re familiar with Esoctrilihum, then you know roughly what to expect. Dense, deathened black metal, broken across a wheel of dark atmosphere, beaten with Asthâghul’s rasping barks. But something is different here. Esoctrilihum‘s most recent records in particular have relied on the fastening of spooky atmospheres and melodies to their twisted spines. While still very much present, this melody now shifts comparatively into the background. Additionally, Consecration… sees a vocal performance of an especially diverse and twisted bent—even for this act. It’s not a stretch to say that the music feels intentionally frightening—not surprising, given its subject matter. But that it succeeds in this endeavor is a large part in why it succeeds overall.

Esoctrilihum is nothing if not committed to their concepts, which here is one of tumult and terror. Every aspect exemplifies it. Growls become a dark laugh (“Spiritüs Flesh”), and shrieks cascade into (sampled?) genuine-sounding screams (“Thertrh”). Gutturals leap into piercing shrieks of apparent protesting agony (“Tharsheîdhon”) and vocals are frequently layered in unsettling whispers and screams (“Spiritüs Flesh,” “Tharsheîdhon”). Sometimes they sound like they’re being played backwards (“Scaricide,” “Aath”), which feels appropriately, and effectively, demonic. Percussion upholds the sense of mania by emphasising furious speed (“Shohih”) or warlike aggression (“Tharsheîdhon,” “Thertrh”). Guitars ramp up the urgency with stomach-churning scales (“Scaricide”), and most songs make frequent use of anxiety-inducing claustrophobic instrumental layering—”Aath” especially.  There are no dungeon synth or kantele interludes here. Only “Sydtg” provides opportunity to breathe with mournful guitar and classically Esoctrilihum ethereal piano, but even this is announced by violent, atonal death metal. 

Confronting as the music is, the demented fable unfolding in Consecration…is relatively easy to follow. This is in part due to its digestible length, which makes movements within and between songs navigable. Even without the assured clarity of repeated listens, its chapters are identifiable. The ritualistic violence of “Spiritüs Flesh” and “Thertrh” drags the listener into the schizophrenic madness and pain of the middle tracks, and “Sydtg”‘s angry and ultimately musing soundscapes are the door to the final madness of closer “Aath.” The overall intensity is nonetheless comprehensible, through an effective balance between mad and eerie elements. Melody may be a smaller player, but its use becomes an effective anchor at key moments, providing the right touches of urgency, mystique, and memorability without undermining the more menacing parts. Asthâghul’s raving may tip slightly too far over the edge into incoherence at points (“Shohih”), but then again, this seems pretty exemplary of the album’s concept. Those who lamented Dy’th Requiem…‘s richer, more symphonic production will be pleased to hear that Consecration…sees a turn to a steelier, rawer sound that nonetheless carries Esoctrilihum‘s signature echoing immediacy. It works well with the content, accenting its afflictive and odd style.

A recurring criticism of this project’s output has been the apparent inability to edit, and Consecration… answers the “what if”‘s in dramatic fashion. Whether its motif necessitated the abridged length or this is a genuine case of self-revision doesn’t matter. The album hits with potency and enables Esoctrilihum‘s otherworldliness to envelop without tiring or distracting—at least not nearly as much as it has been wont to on prior efforts. Successfully terrifying, gripping, and genuinely enjoyable to listen to, this could be Esoctrilihum‘s best album yet.

Rating: Great
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: I, Voidhanger Records
Releases Worldwide: June 17th, 2022

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