The things I do for you people. Even buried under my snowclad tomb ov employment, I could sense an invading presence as our great Hall became infested by a swarm of freshly hatched n00blets, so I’ve dug through my constraints of ice and time itself to save you ungrateful heathens from obituaries declaring “Overdosed on Cherd.” What’s more, there wasn’t jack shit to work with in the ol’ promo dreamsnatcher, so I had to hunt down a worthwhile artist and obtain of deep album all on my own, by any means necessary. I basically almost died for you assholes, so you all owe me whatever passes for your lives, but I come bearing presents, yo; everyone gather round and shut the fuck up, let’s see what MoM brought us.
Malist‘s In the Catacombs of Time – the album in question, for the contextually challenged – is about as joyful as an AIDS diagnosis. One-man blackened army Ovfrost leads a 10 track charge against cheer, skulking through an expansive spectrum ov sombre and sullen sounds along the way; be it by way of opener “Venture into Life”‘s mournful minimalism mounting into more massive-sounding melancholy, the more adventurous and Agalloch-ian aggression of “Spiritual Oppression,” or the contemptuous camult of “Food for the Flames,” Catacombs drags the listener across every inch of negative space it can find for nearly fifty minutes. With such heavy emphasis placed on the album’s emotional atmosphere, it should come as no surprise that Catacombs is tagged as an atmospheric black metal album. What should come as a surprise is that this… is… not atmoblack!
Allow me to explain. As the defining constraints of the subgenre loosen and expand to encompass every new blackened act that rears its horn-ed head, the likes ov Zhrine, Unreqvited and the ghost of Agalloch could attend an atmospheric black metal family revnion and know each other as kvlt kin, despite being nearly sonically unrecognizable from each other; Malist would be welcome, as well, but their stay would be brief and largely spent lurking in the back with the trve oldheads, such as Uncle Taake or the creepy Celtic Frost cousins. It’s becoming nigh impossible to know what to call anything, and while Catacombs cannot rightly claim to be a pvre black metal album, it must also be stressed that this thing almost can’t be rightly called atmoblack, either. Sure, atmosphere is imperative to the music ov Malist, yet here there also be… wait for it… fvcking riffs, yo.
“Violated by Nothingness” is likely the strongest case one might present towards the aforementioned argument. I mean, good Jørn, the thing progs out and practically djents at around the two minute mark – and it fvcking works! “En Bitter Långtan” likewise romps and rolls around relatively riffier realms than anything else tagged as atmoblack these days, yet its deathgrip on such essential elements as post-black tremolo picking and cacophonous shrieks make it pretty difficult to pry this thing away from that perpetually vexing and potentially misleading tag. Furthermore, and possibly the album’s greatest strength, Ovfrost’s vocal performance throughout yields far more than strictly run ov the mill shrieks. Refreshingly, those who explore these Catacombs will experience vocals that ebb and flow like waterfalls throughout the album, rather than listening to the rivers of monotone shrieking they’re used to in black metal. Indeed, practically the entire gauntlet of ranges is run, here, as Ovfrost croaks, croons, cries and screams in registers high and low. This stylistic fluctuation, while defying proper definition, is what defines this album and makes it so miserably fvcking fun. On their own, the songs themselves hold a little less weight without the beneficial contrast of a shifting backdrop to shine against, but they are each nonetheless enjoyable in their own right. Through it all the old ways are honored, the new methods are mastered, and what we’re left with is something sure to claim fans from either side ov the spectrum.
I have nothing bad to say about In the Catacombs of Time. Some may rabble that the production is on par with traditional one-man blackened projects, but
fuck them I don’t consider this to be a fault. Besides, if you creeps can dare to hate on this after the vanilla shitshow that January turned out to be, then I can’t claim to care what concoctions your craptastic cranium creates anyway. In the Catacombs of Time is adventurous, well executed and all kinds ov intriguing, something I can’t often say about your typical atmoblack debut. You’re welcome, you undeserving bunch of ingrates.