With a new year upon us, I’ve given myself a new challenge as we enter yet another spin around the sun: how long can I go without reviewing a one-person black metal album? Seeing as how that’s all we have in the promo bins every January, the answer is “not long at all.” Mind you, there are some excellent examples of one-person black metal done right, with Ashbringer and Myrkur springing immediately to mind. But for the most part, the genre instills as much joy in me as watching a Don Bluth animated feature with a razor blade to my wrists does. So with that, how does Antimoshiach, the debut album from Brooklyn’s Spite, hold up compared to its contemporaries?
Overall, not bad. Once opener “The Devil’s Minyan” rages forth with blasts and tremolo-picking, you detect more than a subtle whiff of modern-day Satyricon in terms of tempos and groove. Salpsan’s raspy vocal delivery recalls a bit of Satyr mixed with December Wolves‘s Devon “Smails,” punctuated with enough bite to cut through the riffs and drumming. There’s a part in the middle that lingers for a bit too long, but overall, it’s a quality throwback to a time where black ‘n’ roll was sweeping through the underground for all of a month or two. In fact, as far as introductions are concerned, “The Devil’s Minyan” stands out as one of the better ones I’ve heard in a while.
But while the quality doesn’t exactly diminish over the course of Antimoshiach‘s length, Salpsan’s songwriting produces some diminishing returns, as both repetition and a lack of experimentation cause the album to suffer a bit. “The Shield of Abraham” feels like an extension of “The Devil’s Minyan,” that is until you get to the Nachtmystium-inspired BOOTS-AND-PANTS part1 about halfway in. Also, many people joke that black metal is just surf music with distortion, and “Second Death” proves that theory correct in the beginning by sounding almost exactly like a Dick Dale song. “Upon Funeral Stone” opens promisingly, with an atmospheric intro featuring bells and ambiance, before sounding like the other songs listed above. Again, nothing is bad on here, but also there’s little to remember.
Which is a shame, because Antimoshiach sounds exquisite. The drums feel heavy and lively, and the bass retains not only clear audibility throughout, but also cements itself as a key part to the music (which is lacking in most black metal). The guitars, when not in Surf Mode, also retain their icy sheen and biting high end. I just wish I could say the same about the music. In bite-sized portions, Antimoshiach is enjoyable. But as a whole, the feeling of deja-vu cuts through a bit too strongly here. With some tightening here and some experimentation there, Salpsan could make waves.
While I may be a bit harsh, Antimoshiach stands as one of the better debuts of one-person black metal I’ve heard in a while. A little fine-tuning will help Spite craft a beast of a release in due time. Perhaps in an album or two, we’ll see Salpsan arch towards the greats of the genre. As it stands now, the promise is there, but it could use a bit of work.