Karmacipher – Introspectrum [Things You Might Have Missed 2020]

I love a puzzle. Something I can piece together, stitch by stitch. But no matter the complexity, there has to be a guiding light to see me through to the end; however faint and however far. Hong Kong’s Karmacipher are architects and second album Introspectrum is their monochromatic maze. The walls of this labyrinth are comprised of dissonant death metal and their irregular topography is measured in volume. However, despite the daunting nature of the gauntlet, these engineers have installed a path. Like a constellation, it is obscure at first but, with each passing second, a theme becomes increasingly apparent. Until all that remains is an unmistakable whole.

Introspectrum’s greatest asset is its flawless sense of narrative. Each song creates repetition in minor flourishes. But upon closer inspection, these motifs are rarely ever identical. The songs often revolve around a controlled yet prolonged burst. With every slight hook the music evolves so no two moments are ever really the same. Opener “My Spectrum” is quick to introduce a subtle staccato that, when combined with the small morsels of trem-picking, provide the more opaque rhythms an opportunity to breathe. This blanketing rise and fall informs much of the album. The immaculate layering builds throughout for an ever-shifting final product.

Music that follows that dissonant/post-death metal blueprint is often jarring for the sake of it. Karmacipher never shy away from these hallmarks but they are tempered with just the right amount of musicality. “Quadrant” and “Revertant” both build to an imposing apex while “None” sates the appetite with digestible grooves. Terry Hui leads the way with guitar lines that are wracked with imagery. “Involuntary Converged” can’t help but conjure scenes of introspective decay, which are anchored by Seff Chan’s deep monotone growls. But it’s drummer Kevin Paradis (Benighted) who steals the show. His dizzying fills and deceptive half-beats inscribe a lofty essay in rhythm that informs the entire album. His constant presence and tenacity results in some of the best technical drum work I’ve heard all year.

To say that Introspectrum has kept me occupied is a gross understatement. Since its release, I have slavishly revisited the material and never fail to find something new to pour over. I also can’t pretend that this is an immediate album. Karmacipher’s work requires a little time. While that might seem counter-intuitive to some, a small effort reaps great rewards. Dedicated listeners will find themselves peeling back layers of withered fascia to discover a tumult of expertly wrought death metal. If you worship Gorguts or even Immolation and missed Introspectrum this year, I insist you right that wrong immediately. With a little devotion, you’ll soon be knee-deep in a creation that transcends 2020’s similarly ulcerative acts. Do not deny yourself this experience.

Tracks to Check Out: “My Spectrum,” “Revertant” and “Involuntary Converged.”

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