Itheist – Itheist Review

I’m a great fan of classic ghost stories. Many authors better known for their indelible works in comparatively sober genres have, at some point in their careers, tried their hand at the weird word. One such author is Lafcadio Hearn, who is best know outside of the USA for his interpretations of Japan’s more nervous narratives. These often brief forays into the baleful and bizarre have a unique capacity to chill yet captivate with their other-worldly atmosphere. The UK’s Itheist comfortably embody this paradigm. Once named Aetherium Mors, this two-man project since altered their moniker so as to better refine their brand of blackened extremity. The material contained within the self-titled debut is proficient and mature in its composition. But sometimes, the often overlooked simplest tenets are the most necessary in creating a truly stirring compound.

Itheist is composed of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Dan Crouch and vocalist Kane Nelson. Their sound is brimming with a progressive black metal that flirts with dissonance one moment before subtly embracing melody the next. The genre-staple feral chords are very rarely used for mundane flaying here. Instead, Crouch is chasing a much more immersive experience and his sterling guitar work is the portal. “Mighty Father of Rebellion” is an early highlight and erupts with a blazing solo. After trading adept tremolos the song eventually settles into a slow hypnotic pattern. This is the album’s prime tactic; to assault and then reconcile with each twist of the track listing. It’s a potent approach and, when successful, works to great effect.

Although I hesitate to call it blackened death metal, there is a certain heft to some of the riffing. “Guardian of Baphomet” opts for an early bludgeoning with tellingly Immolation-adjacent rhythms and Vigna-worthy leads. On a more calculated scale, “Belial Unbound” works a breakdown of stunted palm-mutes into its dissonant pattern. The song also contains a beautiful solo ripped, in tone and style, straight from the arms (and hearse) of Åkerfeldt of old, sans the retro erection. What the track seems to have some trouble with, however, is combining its ideas. This theme of connective inconsistency sporadically affects the entire record. “Neter Amon” blends subdued gothic chords and cyclical riffing with aplomb. But “Horned One,” the album’s spiritual nexus, spends so much time trying to be evocative, that it insistently buries its greatest strengths. The understated choral sections and melodic solo are both effective, but the subtleties feel too conservative for their own good. Eventually, it’s all too easy to forget.

Itheist‘s most effective content lies towards the end of its run. The album spends a little too much time attempting to engineer progression by hiding behind repetitive sequences. Fortunately, the fugue state the record is so eager to achieve finally manifests come the album’s end. Nelson’s scorched growls billow over the mesmeric “Mankind in Extremsis” but it’s the album closer that really seals the deal. My biggest issue with Itheist’s songwriting is that it often tries a little too hard to either vent or suggest instead of simply embracing its dissonant/melodic dichotomy. “Suffering in Existence” consolidates all of the album’s best themes and finally accentuates them until a melancholic outro of twisted notes closes the book.

Bands like Itheist are challenging to review. There is so much innate ability involved that it creates a vortex of extremes. When the talent is properly applied the results are excellent, but when it’s even fractionally less, the discrepancy is glaring. However, despite my criticisms, Itheist smacks of quality. Dan Crouch’s songwriting is on the cusp of expanding into something brilliant and already serves to galvanize Nelson’s positive lyrical themes of empowerment through satanic allegory. In a year that has sundered the chains with a rare black metal assault, Itheist may not lead the charge. But, for fans of the genre who demand a little more than corpse-painted buffoonery, they represent an alternative packed with creeping depth and unique environs. Two things only the most creative authors can command.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320kbps mp3
Label: Self Release
Websites: | facebookcom/itheistband
Releases Worldwide: June 21st, 2019

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