Two weeks ago, I drooled words all over Nightfell‘s latest release and hinted in a footnote that drummer Tim Call might soon be making another appearance. Well, I’m not a liar (how do you know that I’m not lying when I say that I’m not a liar, hmm?) so today we’ll be dealing with another of Call’s Portland based projects, Sempiternal Dusk. Check Metal Archives and the list of bands in which Call has performed and does perform nearly fills two complete lines and spans many metal subgenres. Sempiternal Dusk finds Call joining with fellow members of Aldebaran and Weregoat to invade death/doom territory “with intent and a disdain for modern ‘death metal’ cliche.” How exactly do these guys plan to achieve revenge against what they see as a stagnant, sterile scene?
sexy nasty back (yeah), of course. Them other fuckers don’t know how to act, so Sempiternal Dusk is opening the ancient tome of death metal yore and scheduling a scene-wide re-deadification. Cenotaph of Defectuous Creation finds the band channeling a time and place where the demons of death metal — demons like Autopsy, Obituary, and Incantation — lived not on speed alone but on every tempo that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Devil. Mid-tempo and doom are the order of the day here, but the record contains enough faster moments to keep things from becoming monotonous. Call provides both vocals and drums and does so admirably. He wields his larynx like a phlegmthrower, his roars resonating below the giant riffs provided by JH and VB, and his skin skills take advantage of the variety of tempos to showcase a thunderous drum tone and an ability to drive the songs forward as much or more than the guitars.
Like Nightfell, Sempiternal Dusk enjoys deeply of dark ambience, so naturally Cenotaph begins with a short atmospheric track to set the mood for the 10 minute juggernaut that is “Excavated Filth from Dimensional Incarnations.” “Excavated” begins with a slow doom riff that had me expecting Ozzy to come in crooning, before the tempo picks up slightly thanks to Call’s quick kick drum strikes. An eerie distorted lead squeals far down in the mix, and the song kicks into a driving riff as Call’s voice finally enters the fray nearly four minutes in. “Orgiastic Feast Upon Martyred Flesh” features some worming Incantationisms to build dreadful anticipation for the first two-thirds of its runtime then drops like a dubstep track with a giant, beefy Bolt Thrower riff. “Refracted Suffering Through the Windows of Hell” uses some hypnotic doom grooves and a slightly blackened edge, “Beneath the Emblems of Death” is an interesting crusty death track clocking in at barely over a minute, and “Spears of Pestilence” closes things out with another ten minute riff monster.
The whole thing is over in 36 minutes, and it’s a testament to Sempiternal Dusk‘s songwriting ability that such a short record can contain two 10 minute tracks and work as well as Cenotaph does. Part of the band’s assault on the death metal cliche appears to be a focus on the sanctity of the idea of the “album.” While there are 5 very good tracks here, the emphasis, in my opinion, is more about the way they mesh together into one complete experience. After the intro track, the remaining five songs form a palindrome of song lengths going 10, 6, 1, 6, and 10 minutes respectively. Intentional? I don’t know, but it satisfied my weird obsession with numbers and symmetry. The production is stellar. The drums are larger than life, and the guitar and bass shake the earth.
My time with Sempiternal Dusk and Nightfell has shown me that there is a contingent of bands in Portland, Oregon marching under a common banner in this age of tech death and meandering wankery. They’ve pledged their shields in the effort to make certain that the Almighty Riff and the Holy Album remain co-rulers of the metal kingdom for all eternity. Huge, filthy stuff for
huge, filthy people who like huge, filthy stuff.