Tithe – Inverse Rapture Review

Portland, Oregon’s Tithe has been plying its trade since 2017. Starting out as a two-piece, with Matt Eiseman on guitars and vox, and Kevin Swartz behind the kit, the band released a self-titled EP that year. In 2018, bassist Alex Huddleston joined the fold and Tithe began work on their full-length debut, Penance. Despite dropping at the height of the pandemic, that record generated a little buzz around the band, with its fusion of death, black, grind and even hints of doom packed into its modest run time. Three years on and the trio is back with sophomore effort, Inverse Rapture. Have the intervening years, a move to a bigger label and the pressure of delivering a follow-up album seen Tithe gift away any—let’s say, hypothetically, oh I don’t know, one-tenth—of that strange brutality that made Penance the interesting debut it was?

Certainly the opening to Inverse Rapture gives no hint of any quarter (or tenth) being given. “Anthropogenic Annihilation” kicks down the lychgate with a yawing bass groove big enough to rock the foundations of any church. The massive riff and blast beats that follow it see Tithe rip the main door off its hinges and lay waste to the nave. Inverse Rapture retains the schizophrenic mix of styles of its predecessor, staggering from grindcore (“Pseudologia Fantastica”) to blackened death (title track and “Demon”), before pausing, confused and dazed, to delve into down tempo death doom (“Killing Tree” and parts of “Parasite”), while it catches it breath. Frenetic, leering riffs reel drunkenly around the chancel, while meaty bass grooves thunder across the transepts. Swartz’ work on the drums is the key to the furious intensity that Tithe maintains throughout, shifting effortlessly between metronomic blasts, progressive fills and more downbeat, portentous work, like on the opening of “Killing Tree”, one of the album’s highlights.

Blending the vicious intensity of Hissing with the crushing assault of Ulthar and the more obvious grind stylings of Gravesend, Inverse Rapture is a nasty record. Tithe modulates well what would otherwise be an exhausting listen using those downtempo passages (see sections of “Luciferian Pathways of the Forked Tongue” in addition to “Killing Tree”) to create breathing space without losing a sense of unsettling, brooding malevolence. Indeed, those doom-laden passages feel every bit as oppressive as the more overtly crushing “Anthropogenic Annihilation” or the absolutely unhinged “Demon”. Where Tithe really lets go though, like on the one-two sucker punch of “Demon” and “Parasite”, the unstoppable torrent of riffs combine with the whiplash fury of the drums to create a wall of ferocity, that is just about kept on the leash, rather than falling off into noise. Eiseman’s harsh vocals, rising above the tumult, are in a slightly higher register than one might expect given the death tag, closer to a ragged, blackened hardcore bellow, than all-out death growls but it works well enough.

If that sounds like I’m damning Tithe with faint praise, it isn’t meant to. Inverse Rapture is a good record that falls just shy of being a very good one. In its best moments (the mid-album run of “Demon”-“Parasite”-“Killing Tree”), Tithe gets into territory that had the score safety counter sweating nervously. Luckily for the counter, still reeling from Steel‘s recent antics, there are a few things that hold back this record.1 First is the production. For all that I love about the drum sound on this record, the skins and the vox do drown the guitars a bit, which is a shame because there is some seriously good work going on from both Eiseman and Huddleston. Secondly, that very strong middle section does highlight that the album perhaps falls off slightly at the back end. Not poor by any stretch, but perhaps lacking the outright quality seen in the songwriting of those earlier cuts. Lastly, while Eiseman’s vocals do the job on Inverse Rapture, they are perhaps missing just a little raw bite, that could push Tithe that extra few percent.

On Inverse Rapture, Tithe come out swinging hard at any clergymen looking to make off with a tenth of what’s theirs. It’s a brutal record, building in enough different influences and changes of both mood and pace to keep the listener off their guard. Although it’s not a perfect record, it’s a damned fine one that I very much enjoyed my time with.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Profound Lore Records
Website: tithepdx.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: February 17th, 2023

Show 1 footnote

  1. Eat Oak, you bastard. – Steel
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