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.

Listen/buy here: https://ironboneheadproductions.bandcamp.com/album/khthoniik-cerviiks-equiizoiikum

By Nathanas Trismegistus

Mavorim – Axis Mundi; released January 31, 2020 by Purity Through Fire, a top-brass, German label. Every band they have signed is killer. Every album that P. T. F. has published, that I’ve listened to, has been spectacular. No mundanity nor mediocrity in sight. The same goes for Mavorim. Every single piece of media, whether it be their split with Totenwache (a band which I’ve criticized before for its lack of originality); their 2018 debut, Silent Leges Inter Arma; or their comically long (almost 55 minutes) 2019 EP, Aasfresser (seriously, what is with German bands making full, LP-length EPs, Katharsis did the same thing in 2009 with their excellent Fourth Reich). In fact, I’m convinced that Mavorim is not a band. It is a machine. A well-oiled German machine which produces nothing but pure, unadulterated gold. Seriously, they’ve been pumping out high-quality material, consistently, since their formation in 2014. If none of their content has ever crossed your path, stop reading this and go Google them. Their Bandcamp will be linked below. You will not be disappointed. And if you are, then we can’t be friends. Be gone from my website! Go on. SHOO!

Heavily inspired by the Tyrants of Black Metal, Mavorim create good, old-fashioned, mid-paced, melodic, pagan black metal with the occasional folkish ambient and balladic Volksmusik numbers. They definitely lean closer to the black metal side than the RAC side, despite the scant clean vocals. Since Absurd hasn’t released a proper album since 2005, if you’re looking for something to sate that Thuringian pagan hunger, then you need look no further than Mavorim. Since there isn’t anything overtly – shall we say – NS, about this band or its lyrics (debatably with track titles like “Die Ufer von Thule” and “Hyperborea”), some may look at Mavorim as merely a toothless, domesticated, watered-down imitation of Absurd. I guess I can kind of see where they’re coming from. The production quality on this release is extremely (and, again, unnecessarily) high-fidelity (they’re older material is decidedly rawer, though). The end product is well-polished, any rough edges are all thoroughly sanded down. Personally, I don’t think they engage in utter Absurd worship. The musical similarities, or “echoes”, are clearly there, but I don’t think Mavorim are trying to hide their influences. They’re not trying to deceive anyone, and I think that’s commendable. Still, I think their musical style and approach are different enough. Are they a mere, politically acceptable, mainstream-friendly, Absurd alternative? Perhaps. There does appear to be a todesrune in their logo, though. So, I don’t know.

The riffcraft of the guitars in Axis Mundi strikes an elegant balance between dissonance and consonance. There are some unnerving melodies and harmonies sprinkled here and there, but the preponderance of melodies is of a decidedly triumphant, diatonic nature, typical of pagan-oriented black metal. The drums perfectly realize their function to set the pace and drive the momentum of the song. The drumwork isn’t so unique that it captures or distracts the listener throughout the experience. It’s just very well integrated and fulfills its purpose. In the first half of at least, the instruments all complement each other and work, in perfect concert, to build up acceleration towards a culmination not unlike a stampeding sonic calvary charge. This compositional synergy functions to imbue the listener with adamantine determination and devastating, berserker rage. The album definitely slows down in the second half, though, and emphasizes the clean vocals, not that I’m, by any means, displeased. It does sort of impede the flow of the album in totality. It’s like a running a race at a break-neck pace only to stop right at the end and crawl across the finish line. Not really an issue, it just sort of stuck out to me. It doesn’t help that track 12 is merely a continuation of track 4 and repeats the exact same melody and structure (if I had any legitimate complaints, it would be this). Late in the album is, however, also where you get some of the really interesting and uniquely eerie ambient sections, like track 11. I almost wish Mavorim would release a separate, entirely ambient, Burzum-esque full-length album that I could play whilst traversing the foggy, soggy lowlands at dawn. Strangely, the last (bonus) track, 13, is a cover of a Minenwerfer track from an album which only just came out last year. Don’t bands typically cover classic songs from classic bands? Really breaking the mold there.

Blood is life! Blood is the axis of the world. Blood is what makes the world go ‘round. Mavorim is my new religion. Their latest effort, Axis Mundi, is a meisterwerk of hasserfüllt, anti-leben, anti-modern mordkraft. It is a long one (clocking in at almost 1 hour, 7 minutes), so get comfortable. I’ve endured the entirety of Altar of Perversion’s Intra Naos (which is torturously spread across three LPs) twice, so length is no issue for me. Favorite songs? I refuse to tell you. You should discover your own by listening to the whole album. Mavorim is one of the best bands to emerge from this generation of black metal (there are quite a few). With neither question nor reservation, I would absolutely recommend this album to underground aficionado. Essential, mandatory listening to the tyrants of tomorrow.

Listen and buy here: https://mavorim.bandcamp.com/

By Nathanas Trismegistus

Porta Nigra – “Schöpfungswut” (meaning unknown; though, schöpfung is German for “creation”); released January 17, 2019 by Soulseller records. If the term “avant-garde” has ever been misplaced… well, it was probably less accurate when attributed to Havohej’s latest release, but it’s still inappropriate for this album. It seems that all you have to do to get labeled “avant-garde” is to use pretentiously vague and meaningless song titles and lyrics and to use artwork inspired by some obscure era in the past which has hitherto been neglected by contemporary metal (it doesn’t matter, just pick one). I get that skulls and inverted crosses are beyond cliché at this point, but at least it’s honest. Nobody’s fooling anyone (successfully) with skulls and inverted crosses. I mean, just look at this album cover. Have you seen anything more pretentious? I’m sure Porta Nigra are really patting themselves on the back, going about their tour or whatever telling everyone that its “open to interpretation.”

I had never listened to anything produced by Porta Nigra before this. I had heard of them, though. Evidently, they are a German outfit creating what they call “decadent dark metal”, despite the fact that they often use French terminology and symbology. They seem to be preoccupied with the contrast and hollow, gilded nature of supercilious, affluent high society with the proximal debauchery and degradation of larger European societies at the end of the 20th century.

But who gives a shit? What’s the music like? Well, I’m sorry to say the music isn’t much deeper than their album art and themes. This is near kindergarten levels of musical composition. I’ve never heard anything so basic called “avant-garde”. The melodies are absolutely inane, insipid, saccharine, sickly sweet and rotten (a lot like a moldy strawberry, incidentally), lifeless, uninspired. The drums are static and stagnant, lock-step, alternating blast beats and tom rolls. The mix is fine, but it does have that absolutely hideous, over-compressed, digital quality which is becoming more and more prevalent these days.

If I could say anything positive about this album, it is that the vocals are very rhythmic and varied. They’re not my style of vocals, but they are poignant and aggressive. I don’t know what they’re saying as I don’t speak German. Putting the song titles in Google translate clarified very little. The opening track probably had the best and most interesting songwriting. It really took a nosedive after that though. And I mean, 2008 housing market crash levels of plummeting.

Apparently, this release was limited to 300 copies, per format. I mean, the audacity to have such a limited release; like you’re part of some sort of exclusive club for high-brow musical intellectuals for purchasing this rubbish. (On the bright side, I really can’t complain since so little plastic was wasted on this lofty mound of goat shit.) Soulseller, you can keep them all. This album is tripe. It’s shallow. It’s unimaginative. It was like listening to an amateur guitarist aimlessly running through their major scales in their bedroom while their parents argued in the other room. Utter waste of time. Not recommended. Not essential.

But maybe that’s the point, man. You just don’t get it. Life is – like – so devoid of meaning, dude. It speaks to the flaws of the empty, mindless consumerism of our Western capitalist imperialist hegemonies.

Eat shit and die.