Look at that album art, yo. Just look at it. LOOK AT IT!!! You might not necessarily be able to discern just what, exactly, is transpiring in that depiction, but you do know one thing:1 This… is… Black Metal! Perhaps that’s not enough to pique your interests, given the prolific prevalence ov metal’s best subgenre2 in recent years. Ok, you standards-having turd factories, would you be more intrigued by Zifir‘s Demoniac Ethics if I were to tell you that this particular treat is a Turkish delight? Still nothing? Jesus, you people are impossible. Your loss, yo, as Demoniac Ethics is one savage and seriously satisfying slice of sinister sounds and unsettling atmospherics, somewhat similar to how I’d suspect the spawn of Wiegedood, Départe, and Dodecahedron to sound… oh, look at that, your attention just arrived!
So, yeah, listeners craving sadboi ambiance or some good ol’ tremolo-picked weepies may as well
join the club begin their hunt anew. Demoniac Ethics comprises 11 tracks of sheer unadulterated rage, with just under zero fucks dedicated to your need to breathe. Clocking in at a svelte 41 minutes, Zifir‘s fourth full-length is as lean as it is mean — for the most part, anyway. There is a sub-necessary instrumental intro (“Sûr”) because of course there is, as well as a mid-album interlude of roughly equal necessity (“An Eerie Moment”) and yet neither of these tracks are able to fritter and waste the album’s momentum in an offhand way. I suppose “An Eerie Moment” is as close to a momentary respite as can be found amidst the otherwise constant cacophony of Demoniac Ethics, so perhaps dismissing it as filler is a bit unfair. However, this is Angry Fucking Metal Guy Dot Goddamn Com, and I’m legally bound to complain about something. To that end, I’ve now done my job3.
For everything they lack in things to complain about, Zifir make up for it with a chaotic cornucopia of killer riffs aplenty. Largely ascribing to the teachings of black metal’s second wave, theirs is a black metal most fierce, fueled by dissonant rage and executed in precise bursts of lethal riffage. Rhythm and discernible melody take precedence, yet though Demoniac Ethics isn’t outright dissoblack it is likewise hardly melodic. The album follows the furious footsteps of Wiegedood or Woe, carefully constructing concise, caustic passages of sound and hurling them at the listener with all the delicate tenderness of a rabid wolverine. Whether it’s force feeding you the fast and furious fervor of “Chants for Execution” or else tearing out chunks of your sanity one riff at a time a la “Spirit of Goats”, this album hits hard, heavy and with wholehearted hate.
And how! The delirious drumwork and demonic guitars at Zifir‘s disposal certainly do their duties towards darkening up Demoniac Ethics, but it’s the atmospheric one-two punch of the band’s vocalist and rhythm section that erases all light and life entirely from the album, rendering it pitch-black and utterly unforgiving. Vocalist and guitarist Onur Önok’s screams are most immediately comparable to the late Michiel Eikenaar (Dodecahedron), delivered in harsh vocal spasms of lunacy which are — paradoxically — just as clear and decipherable as they are garbled and unhinged. The wailing insanity of “Still Reigning” alone would be enough to make a lesser Muppet tremble, but its presence against the backdrop of tremolo-picked horror and despair allows both elements to stand out like unsettling silhouettes in the distance. When such moments occur, they often employ scales and a similar sense of stifling somberness as those utilized by Départe, and I absolutely lack the prosaic prowess necessary to describe just how powerful these passages trvly are.
I’m all kinds of surprised that my first black metal find of 2020 turned out to be this awesome, but I’m not complaining. Demoniac Ethics is every bit as dark and threatening as I fear the year and ensuing decade both promise to be, except these are tidings of war and destruction that I’m inclined to turn up rather than tune out. Zifir presents enough points of comparison as to fall short of wheel reinvention or otherwise changing the black metal game, but Demoniac Ethics is a fine album all the same, a trve testament to Istanbul’s burgeoning metal scene and the state of black metal in general. What the rest of the year may hold is still a mystery, but by the grace of Jørn it seems like things are off to a promising start here in the Hall, and at the end of the day that’s really all that matters.