By Nathanas Trismegistus
Khthoniik Cerviiks – Æequiizoiikum; released July 17, 2020 by Iron Bonehead Productions. This is the sophomore album from the German trio (which is surprising given the complexity of some of the chords and harmonies present in their music). This album was not my first (third?) encounter with this band, nor was their first. My introduction to Khthoniik Cerviiks came in the form of their 2017 split with US-based band, Howls of Ebb (RIP)—their contribution titled “Voiidwarp”. (The significance of doubling the letter I’s which appear in their track and album titles is a mystery.) This, of course, prompted me to check out their other releases. Though I wasn’t too impressed by their older output, I am happy to give the band a second chance. And I am even happier to report that Æequiizoiikum exceeded my expectations.
Khthoniik Cerviiks’ 2015 debut, SeroLogikkal Scars (a copy of which I do own but I wouldn’t deign to guess how long it’s been since I gave it a spin), was a confused, muddled Frankenstein’s monster of an album, in my opinion. At one moment it was a hellish descent into a Marduk-esque black metal maelstrom; at others it was a Demilich- or Demigod-esque experimental surgery of off-kilter, technical death metal; and at other times it was an auspicious, Voivod-esque, progressive/thrash interstellar jaunt. It was really interesting, refreshing, and – dare I say – engaging; but, ultimately, it was an overwhelming clusterfuck. And maybe that’s impression it sought to achieve.
Æequiizoiikum is definitely an improvement—definitely a step in the right direction. This new album takes Khthoniik Cerviiks’ unique, arcane vision (known, perhaps, only to the band members themselves) and amplifies and refines it. There are definitely some bangers on this album. Tracks 3, 4, and 5 specifically stood out to me. Here we have yet another case of reversed sagging middle; the quality of the middle utterly eclipsing the beginning and the end. The last few tracks, I think, are really where this album falters. The tonal range on this album can really be quite staggering at times. The musical style apparent on this album, to which I’ve already alluded, is a pastiche of progressive thrash, technical death, and orthodox black metal. However, these elements are all reigned in to a degree which is far more palatable and stylistically coherent than ever before achieved by Khthoniik Cerviiks. Æequiizoiikum is just as unpredictable as their first album, but without leaving the listener exhausted and bewildered. The lyrical content, I can only assume (because I have not yet read the lyrics), beneath its obvious references to science fiction, deals with the reliance on and obsession with technology, and the resultant intellectual degradative effect it has on the humans which created it.
If I had any complaints about this album, it would be the sound of the drums, as well as, to a lesser extent, its performance. The bass sound is very modern, clicky, and tech-deathy. The high-hat sounds excessively compressed and way too and prominent in the mix. At times, it seems like the high-hat is the only cymbal being hit And, I’m sorry, but it all just doesn’t sound real to me. I see Khthoniik Cerviiks brought on a new drummer this year. Did he perform on this new album? Did any drummer perform on this album? While I’m on the topic of production, though, the bass sounds great by itself, but is rendered rather emaciated when the full mix kicks in. The guitar tone I can see being a massive deterrent to the misguided fans of the trve kvlt/nekro sound who follow me and might be reading this review in search of bands which fit that mold. It is very mid-focused and trebly. I would consider it smooth, polished, and almost glass-like or not unlike some space-age, high-tech plastic; very much in keeping with a more modern metal sound and the band’s lyrical themes. (I would like to put forward the motion that this style of music be henceforth referred to as black/death polymer.) The overall production quality is vastly improved from other Khthoniik Cerviiks offerings. Whereas SeroLogikkal Scars sounded markedly anemic and hollow, Æequiizoiikum sounds vastly fuller and more dynamic.
Æequiizoiikum is a death-defying, superluminal slingshot maneuver around a supermassive black hole into spatial dimensions unknown. Definitely recommended for fans of Artificial Brain, Chthe’ilist, Demigod, Demilich, Gorguts, Mithras, Nocturnus, StarGazer, Timeghoul, Vektor, and Voivod. If you’re just getting sick of the typical black and death metal affair continuously getting cranked out this year, I would deem it essential. Obviously, not the heartiest of approbations, only because I don’t think Kthoniik Cerviiks necessarily does anything that some of the aforementioned, analogous bands haven’t done better already. Regardless, check it out and decide for yourselves.