In the dying throes of September, as the foliage descends with the temperature and the year draws closer to its inevitable demise, the cool breezes of the approaching winter whisper like ghosts warning of death to come; ’tis the season for socially acceptable revelry in the spooky side ov things, and haunts ‘n horrors are in the air in Canada — at least, they were when The Projectionist carved out their seriously sinister sophomore LP, Visits From the Nighthag Part 1. Chronicling a rather unpleasant affair involving night terrors, amputations and evil sleepy-time bitches, Visits captures the haunting spirit of Halloween to a T and spins it into a black metal musical ov sorts. The question is, are we talking a glorious, godless Grease, or an overly ambitious amateur cringefest?
For better or worse, you won’t really know the answer to that without a lyrics sheet. The various styles of black metal vocals employed throughout the album are generally and deliberately unintelligible, effectively rendering much of the storytelling all but pointless. Furthermore, beyond being garbled into a guise of incoherent irrelevance, the vocals are frequently delivered in a manner viler than the rawest and ragged DSBM wailing. My first spin of Visits initially found me utterly repulsed by the shrill rasps and gurgling grunts introduced in “Act 1 – Paralysis of Subconscious Toxins,” until it clicked: these sounded like the malevolent screams and decrepit croonings of an ancient, evil wisp of a fairy — or, I dunno, a Nighthag. Suddenly my interest was piqued, and I was listening not just as a reviewer but as a proper audience member to the characters and plots unraveling before me.
From that point on, Visits took hold of me so hard that I’m surprised I haven’t started speaking in tongues. A dark and twisted fable unfurled before my very earballs, whispering and shrieking to me of an unfortunate projectionist who had unwittingly drawn the attention of a powerful and malicious Nighthag. The story is told via rather Shakespearean lyrics; coupled with the largely indecipherable nature of the vocals, much of the album’s story element is likely to be lost on many listeners, but those who make the effort to engage with Visits will find themselves immersed in a 5-act theatrical ride touring through scenes of amputation, wrathful she-devils and a little black book ov souls. By the end of it all, the Nighthag has reduced the protagonist’s life to ruins and the promise of Part 2 hangs in the air like a looming storm cloud. Sounds harrowing, doesn’t it?
It is. Admittedly the least dynamic of the lot, “Act 1” sets things moving with a plodding bit of mid-tempo Winterfylleth blackness laced with Eldamar keys, and from there, things only get more energetic and violent. Traces of early Dimmu malevolence give way to Drudkhian darkness before everything ultimately explodes into something The Great Old Ones would be proud ov. The sonic scenery shifting to suit the sordid story and sounding suitably sinister for every second of every song. Lo-fi aesthetics blend bone-dry drums and gritty tremolo dissonance into an all-encompassing maw of sound, and each act is more chaotic and frantic than the last as the Nighthag descends upon the protagonist’s world. Nothing particularly new is being done here, yet the increasing intensity of insanity experienced as the album progresses gives it a signature sense of life and charm which makes for a very engaging and visual ride through the darkest parts ov the black metal spectrum. Fans of the genre will feel right at home amidst the obsidian discord of “Act 4 – What Can Be Mollified in a Banshee’s Thrashing?” whether they care to learn the answer or not – providing, of course, they can endure the repugnant DSBM rasps.
In this day and age, the only thing rarer than bands not making black metal is a black metal act with actual vision and imagination; Visits certainly is another black metal album in an infinitely rising sea ov clones, yet the manner in which it uses familiar settings to tell its own new tale is refreshing and admirable. On their own the songs of Visits are capably delivered stock black metal, inauspicious and inoffensive; experienced as a whole, Visits has proven to be the most intriguing and engaging listen I’ve had the privilege of exploring all year, an imaginative and perilous journey with an absolutely perfect soundtrack. Steeped in the sepulchral spirit ov the season, Visits From the Nighthag Part 1 is an album that will be haunting Muppet‘s Halloween playlists for years to come.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Appalachian Noise Records
Websites: thetrueprojectionist.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/The-Projectionist
Releases Worldwide: September 30th, 2018