Roman Catholic black metal. Quite the paradox, this is. Still, not all of the best songs belong to The Horned One. As a longtime fan of Zao and Orphaned Land, I’ve grown to appreciate differing religious viewpoints within our favorite musical genre. So when a band, such as Sweden’s Reverorum ib Malacht, takes on a slant when it comes to lyrical matter and atmosphere, my curiosity gets the better of me, and on their fourth album, the wordy Im Ra Distare Summum Soveris Seris Vas innoble, I tossed caution to the wind, and embraced the thought of unblack metal with an open mind, and an open heart…
…and then I pressed play and listened to the damn thing. After a short intro, “Where Escapism Ends” quietly opens with a tremolo riff and a sample. And I do mean quietly, as the recording sounds incredibly muffled and silent. Then we get horribly sampled drum programming, a dude moaning, and keyboards that would sound more in-place during a Lawrence Welk television broadcast. And for the majority of the next ten(!) minutes, we are treated to about three differently-distinct-yet-equally-bad versions of various Mayhem and Blut Aus Nord tropes with piped in church samples blaring at loud volumes.
And speaking of loud volumes, the immediate follow-up, “Incompatible Molokh,” ramps it up to unforeseen levels of ridiculousness. It’s the aural equivalent of going from a flavorless seltzer drink like LaCroix and following it up with orange juice that’s been concentrated to infinity without diluting it first. And again, the drums and vocals are mixed to the absolute forefront and compressed to within an inch of their lives, so much so that you can’t make out any guitars, bass, or keyboards whatsoever. And it’s this back-and-forth between whisper-quiet and ear-bleeding-at-almost-mute volumes that makes this an absolute chore to listen to. And what you can make out is laughable. “Skin Without Skin” was probably recorded during a testicular examination, as the vocals consist mostly of one of the vocalists coughing. “E va um da” is a subdued, almost mute instrumental that I could barely make out (due to me not increasing the volume), but seeing as how “Etia si omnes, ego non,” the second-loudest song on the album immediately follows it, I’m happy with making the decision to not crank it up.
I’m sure you’ve scrolled down and looked at the dynamic range score and thought to yourself, “Gee, Grymmothy, a seven ain’t so bad.” Number one, stop calling me “Grymmothy,” and number two, that’s the computed average. The plummet from the DR6 of “Where Escapism Ends” to the painful DR3 of “Incompatible Molokh” is both jarring and headphone-throwing. The pinball-like up-and-down of the production is laughable at best, and downright painful at worst. When you can make out the guitars, it’s a simple tremolo riff or a basic chord progression. The drum machine sounds absolutely horrible, and the keyboards play the same damn melodies to exhaustion. But even if there was some modicum of songwriting, when you blend everything together to the point where your entire album sounds like the final few minutes of Queensryche‘s immortal “Eyes of a Stranger” mixed by a deaf person through a busted Radio Shack tape deck, what good is it?
It was only brought to my attention over the weekend that the good Dr. A.N. Grier reviewed their last album, and that should have been enough of a warning then.1 Im Ra Distare Summum Soveris Seris Vas innoble borders on the unlistenable, giving the first Tetragrammacide album a run for its money. If you’re into pain, poorly produced sounds, and a dude randomly coughing and moaning for 48 minutes, by all means, have at it. I’ll get my religious fix elsewhere. Avoid.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Annapurna Production
Websites: malachtunlimited.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/reverorum-ib-malacht
Release Dates: EU: 2018.05.11 | NA: 06.15.2018