How convenient! An extreme metal record distributed by none other than Extreme Metal Music. Can’t get much more straightforward than that! The band is Voltumna, who I am sure every single person here has heard of before. The record is Ciclope. The time is now. The place is here. The reviewer is me. Time to crack open this cyclopic skull and see what lurks inside! Blackened death metal? Just what I wanted! Man, I’m using a lot of exclamation points today…oh well! Anyway, these Italian misfits three dole out a most direct application of blackened death, channeling the best of what Belphegor and Dark Funeral (I know they’re not blackened death, shut up) had to offer in their respective fields while cribbing the gravitas of Septicflesh and the unhinged insanity of Musmahhu. If that infernal combo doesn’t get your motor running, you may need to see a doctor ASAP. As for me, I’m raring to go, anxious to smash various parts of my cranium as I flail my abused spine to and fro with unyielding fervor.
A circumstance endemic to the metalsphere, the intro track would work better integrated with first track proper, “Collapsed Island,” which sounds generic despite a strong main riff. One song later and suddenly I require a neck brace. So many riffs! “The Megalithic Circle” churns out vital riff after vital riff, and throws in a bonus curveball early on by way of hypermodern synth work. By the time “Cosmos,” one of the album’s many sparking highlights, enters my temporal lobe the neck brace I just bought is lying on the ground, shattered to smithereens. I should have sprung for the deluxe model. I expect most listeners will share this experience, as the riffs on “Cosmos” are so energetic they almost feel more appropriate for a power-thrash album, until of course they pull a one-eighty and thrash you into the ground with The Blackened Chair of Death™. I hear the band’s Italian heritage especially here, with subtle neoclassical instrumentation getting all up in guitarist Michele Valentini’s and bassist Emiliano Natali’s relative bidnesses.
Luckily for you dummies, Voltumna has much more in store. Every track from “Cosmos” on is arguably the best one here. We owe a great debt to drummer Edoardo Di Santo for this, as his performance steals the show entirely, which is impressive considering how consistently awesome the riffing is. Much like on Musmahhu‘s Reign of the Odious, the kit work on Ciclope feels dangerous and unpredictable in the best way. Not once does the man miss his mark. Yet you sit at the edge of your seat—camera at the ready—just in case he accidentally sends his right drumstick through his nostril and into his grey matter, what with the feverish furiosity with which he delivers gravity blasts in “La Furia Dei Ciclopi,” for example. Even “The Double Spiral,” both the longest track present by almost two minutes and an instrumental, earns major props for being entertaining from beginning to end. That’s good songsmithing right there!
Mixing, on the other hand, is not amazing. You can hear every instrument, but I still lose the bass sometimes in the maelstrom of sound that attacks me from all sides at all times. Additionally, the vocals, while totally appropriate and compelling for the style, sometimes feel too untamed. Having both axemen contributing vocals adds tons of dynamism to the record, but at other times they seem out of sync. I’m not convinced that phenomenon represents a boon in every instance. Lastly, some of the synths feel unnecessary, notably the samples used on “The Double Spiral,” which startled me during my initial playthrough. Then again, they grew on me pretty quickly. Make of that what you will.
When it comes to picking promo, I look at two things: the names of the things—band, album, genre, label, you get the idea—and the artwork, when available. That’s it. No promo sheets and their propensity for cringe-worthy use of buzzwords and fuckery. No advance tracks or video links. Just the first impression, fifteen seconds maximum. Ciclope had me at five. It looked cool, competently rendered and featured a logo without the stereotypical illegible splatter and/or five thousand inverted crosses hidden in letters suspiciously excluding ‘T’. Voltumna did not disappoint. Merry Fucking Christmas, nerds!