Heretical Sect – Rapturous Flesh Consumed Review

As I close out the year with reviews, what better way than to go back to my roots? Is that vague? Maybe. Mysterious? Definitely. What on earth would I have in common with Heretical Sect? Am I a skeleton with a snake in my skull? Maybe. I’ll bring that up with the doctor later. I suppose you could ask: what do chile, Breaking Bad, Ancestral Puebloans, hot air balloons, and the worst pedestrian safety rating in the US have in common? New Mexico! Always lumped in with its southern or eastern neighbors, I get protective of ‘Burque,1 the ol’ 505, and the home of Billy the Kid, Old Man Gloom (the burnin’ dude and the band), and Heretical Sect. Does the latter do the Land of Enchantment justice or is it another sad testament to the 49th-best high school education in the country?

Truth be told, I don’t live in New Mexico anymore, but it sounds way cooler than where I am now. Regardless, Heretical Sect is a black metal quartet, with anonymous members partaking in other “City of Holy Faith” groups like Predatory Light and Superstition. While mystery surrounds this collective, it holds lone 2019 EP Rotting Cosmic Grief under its belt. While not entirely original, its breed of the black arts rides a fine line between raw and heavy, sporting blistering tremolos, rhythmic variety, and enough bass to keep its textures grounded. Heretical Sect continues this trend in first full-length Rapturous Flesh Consumed, offering a solid effort whose flawed black metal-meets-death/doom execution may not be particularly unique but intrigues in its menacing atmosphere and experimental flourishes.

I would be comfortable placing Heretical Sect’s palette alongside black metal groups like Deathspell Omega, Ancient Moon, and Amnutseba, as they soar in the use of liturgical atmosphere, dissonance, and doom for maximum blasphemous effect. Tracks like opener “Rising Light of Lunacy” utilize choral textures with its crunchy riffs for maximum dread, while “The Depths of Weeping Infinity” and “Degradation Temple” create atmospheres of punishing menace through stripped-down plucking, manic vocals, and death/doom pace, and “Resurrection Sky” is a brief moody interlude that capitalizes upon the album’s stark mood perfectly. The guitar tone is noteworthy, as it balances the razor’s edge between blackened scorch and death heaviness in a unique crunch that feels equally suitable for punishing chugs or scathing tremolo. Heretical Sect’s star of the show is its members’ ability to create dread through its metallic assets as well as its experimental (chanting, choral textures, plucking), making energetic all-out riff-fests in “Rising Light of Lunacy” and “Degradation Temple” truly climactic.

For all its good, other than its very effective guitar tone and Predatory Light-inspired death/doom influence, Rapturous Flesh Consumed sees Heretical Sect in a bit of an identity crisis. It’s an everything-and-the-kitchen sink approach, for better or worse; while highlights succeed in the balance of choral textures, dark atmosphere, and scathing tremolo, tracks like “Baptismal Rot and Ash” and “The Depths of Weeping Infinity” have too much going on, abruptly shifting sprawling doom into hyper-blast mode into wild solos with no transition. The longer tracks, further, stretch out their assets too far to justify protracted lengths, worsened by abrupt tempo shifts. Passages in “Degradation Temple” and “Ritual Inversion” aren’t helped by underwritten melodies or awkward rhythms, painfully at odds with the stunning atmosphere presented around them. Finally, while Heretical Sect stands at the intersection of Batushka, Predatory Light, Ataraxie, and Deathspell Omega, it never commits to nor soars in one distinct palette, and remains in blackened limbo.

One thing that Rapturous Flesh Consumed absolutely knocks outta the park is its atmosphere. While its means of accomplishing it are questionable at times, Heretical Sect has created a relentlessly foreboding soundtrack for the pit drop in your stomach. Competent second-wave worship, suitable death metal heft, and enough liturgical flourishes collide in an album whose product is more solid than the sum of its parts suggest. Ultimately, we have an album whose potential is greater than its actual success, and it all comes down to songwriting: tighten up those melodies and those loose ends, and the next chapter will be a foreboding testament to New Mexico’s dynamic music scene and provide the “City of Holy Faith” with some well-deserved blasphemy. But for now, I think I’ll eat red chile-smothered breakfast burritos and watch Breaking Bad nostalgically.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Gilead Media
Releases Worldwide: December 11th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Technically a city.
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