Irae – Lurking in the Depths Review

Black metal has a weird reputation. If you ask anybody walking down the street about it, given its nuances of church burning and Satanism, they’ll shudder and tell you “that stuff is scary, man.” However, if you ask a person who regularly listens to it, it becomes a different beast entirely: using Burzum‘s self-titled as an example, you’ll hear an angsty Ewok grumbling about his mom taking away his Satanic Bible while abusing a Walmart guitar. While exercises in excess are indicative of ze kvlt at large, when does the thin line between this amateurish cheese and haunting veteran gravity get crossed? Quite a dinner, my friend—eat your gruyere off the tile before it gets cold.

Irae is a Portuguese raw black metal band formed in 2002 and a member of the Black Circle, which is comprised of blackened Portuguese groups like Mons VenerisDecrepitude, Vetala, and Rainha Cólera. Sporting a quietly productive catalog of four full-lengths, one EP, nine demos, and seventeen splits over the last nearly two decades, sole member Vulturius should have figured out his style by now, right? While sporting all the hallmarks of raw black metal without sawing his own foot off with a barbed wire guitar tone, this one-man act balances it with some interesting tricks that are sure to get listeners drooling in fifth full-length Lurking in the Depths. Ultimately, while it does little to keep from falling into stereotypical kvlt territory, its sturdy sound and tasty tricks elevate it above the scathingly dull masses.

Lurking in the Depths is at its best when it manages to balance influences in a solid foundation, allowing experimental tricks to keep its relatively protracted 44 minute runtime feasible. Tracks like opener “Nightshade,” “Between Ruins,” and “Carved in Pit Stones” are solid black metal thrashers that manage their many sonic layers with ease: fairly raw guitar tone that doesn’t overwhelm, a sturdy bass foundation that doesn’t swallow,1 and patient touches of ambiance and dissonance that don’t consume the sound. Irae touches upon a plethora of different blackened styles in Lurking in the Depths, which could lead to a plethora of consistency issues. However, the established palette is so sturdy that it reeks of confidence instead of indecision. The best track is previously released single “Ratanazas,” thanks to its groovy central riff that oozes swagger svvagger, as well as “A Blaze in the Mist,” for its unique atmospheric plucking over pummeling blastbeats. These tracks succeed as an epitome of Irae‘s foundational success in second-wave sturdiness and a willingness to expand the palette into tastefully experimental territory.

For all its fresh simplicity, Lurking in the Depths does have moments of face-pummeling awkwardness, namely tracks “Black Metal Violator” and “Encurralado.” While each are peppered with solid passages through their respective runtimes, transitions are abrupt and the dissonance feels sloppy. “Black Metal Violator” in particular loses its scathing quality due to its hokey 6/8 time signature, feeling more like a black metal waltz at your great aunt’s wedding reception rather than the kvlt apocalypse soundtrack it was meant to be. “Calor, Fome e Doenças,” in spite of its impeccable sound, is too short at two-and-a-half minutes. Also, while Irae‘s palette is incredibly tasteful, Lurking in the Depths does little to challenge listeners. While it professes raw black metal, for instance, its guitar tone is not grating enough to satisfy purveyors of ear-rape everywhere (which is fine for most of us). Ultimately, in terms of the Portuguese scene, Irae outdoes Ancient Burial by a long shot, falls short of Black Cilice, and ultimately lands in the less-raw Armnatt ballpark: a solid slab of black metal, but little else.

While lurking in the depths of the promo bin, I expected this bad boy to be like every rotten Velveeta cheese bag of one-man black metal: just nacho day. But what I got was actually a balanced platter of gouda black metal. Harnessing the layers of Faustian Pact and raw energy of Ildjarn, with tasteful pinches of Evilfeast ambiance, Deathspell Omega dissonance, Dissection melody, and Khold groove, all atop a Darkthrone blueprint, it gets cheddar with each listen. Brie and large avoiding cheese in favor of rock-solid blackened simplicity, you’ll die provolone in these depths—but you won’t get feta‘p with it. Lurking in the Depths may not be the munster of an album Irae is capable of, but it’s a tasty smorgasbord of blackened hors d’oeuvres to keep you satisfied.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Signal Rex
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: June 26th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. I’m all about that bass ;)
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