(In this post Andy Synn reviews the new album by L.A.’s Lightning Swords of Death. At the end of the post you’ll also see the band’s official music video for the album’s title track, which premiered today.)
Where exactly to start with this one? While LSOD have been pillaging the American underground for years now, their exposure to a wider audience has been relatively/extremely limited (depending on your perspective). They’ve been on major metal tours with the likes of Behemoth and Danzig, they’ve supplied songs for computer games and movies, yet all in all they’re more likely to be the sort of band you’ve probably heard before, but never realised it.
Part of that is the name – unwieldy, and more than a little hokey to some – and part of that is the band’s steadfast commitment to the underground aesthetic. They’ll do these things, they’ll play ball with the mainstream, but they’ll do so on their own terms.
They’re a band who put the emphasis on the METAL part of Black Metal, heavy, aggressive, and uncompromising, drawing elements liberally from across the Thrash, Death, and Traditional spectrum, without upsetting that careful balance between occult glamour and oily grime that Black Metal thrives on. More than anything they’re an unrepentantly dark and blasphemous band, a band whose sound touches on something nameless and forgotten, an atmosphere, an aura, of something not quite human, not quite alive, permeating every note and every aspect of their music.
Baphometic Chaosium kicks in with its title track, building from a shroud of ominous groaning chords and twisted, esoteric bass work into a rapid-fire barrage of chaotic kick and blast work and vicious bursts of taut tremolo guitars. There’s more than a hint of Dissection at their most venomous in the bile-drenched vocals and barbed hooks of the track, but the overall delivery is distinctive and devastating in its own right, thick with oppressive atmosphere and cut through with searing flashes of malevolent melody.
“Acid Gate” is an even more unhinged proposition, channeling the spirit of early Celtic Frost – all ominous proclamations of doom and angular, ill-fitting riff-forms – then exorcising their memory with a relentless display of blasting ferocity. Thick, groaning slabs of guitars bear down on the listener with dark intent, carried by undulating coils of sinuous, prominent bass-lines, while the middle of the song is inhabited by a ghastly, ominous piece of slow-crawling, ritualistic worship which sinks itself deep into the primal parts of the brain.
Dissonant and disorienting, “Psychic Waters” is a hypnotic mind-snare whose callous repetition of lurking, disharmonic tremolo guitars serves to lull the listeners into a trance-like-state before unsettling their naked psyche with sudden manifestations of bulldozing sledgehammer death metal, where the rolling thunder of kick drums echoes loudly off concrete tombstones of looming, crushing guitars.
The skin-crawling ambient interlude of “Cloven Shields” is an unsettling piece of anti-music, a shard of madness and horrible clarity which leads into the apocalyptic death-march of “Chained To Decay”, an ugly piece of sickening aural filth, whose entropic decline echoes Marduk at their most twisted and tortured – an awful hymn of damnation and degradation, set before a background of tormented, strained guitar strings and raw, primitive drumming.
The brutal shock to the senses that is “R’Lyeh Wuurm” wastes no time in carving its way into the meat and the marrow with its serrated guitar work, the vocals spitting venom and raving with violent lunacy. Explosions of shell-shocked death metal riffage break up the hailstorm of blasphemous, blackened frenzy, pulverising flesh and bone already torn and broken by the song’s merciless assault.
The ebon jewel in the album’s serpentine crown, “Epicyclarium” is a whole new shade of black, darker than the absence of light itself, its contorted skeleton of rattling drums and rusted guitars drenched in an oily coating of nightmarish horror. Like a parasite it burrows its way under the skin, whispering its dark intentions into your ear, wrapping you in an embrace of obscene, suffocating intimacy. Grinding, low-slung riffs thrust and writhe with priapic potency while asphyxiating tendrils of contorted tremolo squeeze themselves tighter and tighter around your throat, bringing you ever closer to ecstatic, suicidal release.
Nasty and brutish, the finale of “Oaken Chrysalis” bursts with flesh-tearing hooks, matching ravenous vocals to a scorching, irresistible central riff, mixing clanging metallic chords with razor-sharp incisions of obsidian melody. Both savage and seductive in equal measure, the drums hammer out an unstoppable, head-banging rhythm, getting the blood pumping and the fever building before unleashing an obliterating volley of frenzied snare-blasts — pushing everything into the red, blood-vessels bursting and bones fracturing under the strain – before finally collapsing into a lightless singularity of cold, creeping ambience.
There’s a haunting undercurrent of ritualised horror beneath the surface of this album, a slithering, Lovecraftian malice that warps and mutates the band’s skin-flaying metallic assault into something more poisonous and inhuman. With great care and occult obsession they have captured the essence of the looming, formless horror lurking behind the music with consummate skill.
Devastating and desecrating in all the right ways, this is a perfect showcase for a band unconcerned with gimmicks, or with ticking all the right boxes – a perfect showcase for their terrible blackened artistry. Instead of trying to be all things to all men, these five disturbed individuals have focussed on what they do best – and what they do best is rape the unwary with a storm of heavy, abrasive, black metal malice and sadistic, ritualistic dread.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Baphometic Chaosium is the band’s third album and their second release on Metal Blade, and it has its official release today. It can be ordered here, as well as on iTunes. Below are SoundCloud files for two songs, plus the band’s official music video for the title track.
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/70255373″ iframe=”true” /]
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/74252256″ iframe=”true” /]
Lightning Swords of Death – “Baphometic Chaosium” (Official Music Video) from Mortichrome on Vimeo.
One has never heard or heard of their music. But, One must say: that is the most impressive and “cleanest” Black Metal album-art featuring Baphomet or other demon-goats that One has seen.
Other demon-goat art thrown One’s way is welcome.
It is a beautiful cover, no?
I’m not a tattoo guy, but I would definitely consider getting that inked in large on my back.
I don’t think that would work. It wouldn’t leave room for the big portrait of me that you said you wanted.
Based on the band name, I expected snarky self-awareness, not filthy, badass metal. I’m sure they get that a lot.
I’m so acclimatized to black metal cliches that it’s a little hard to reconcile the look of the band with the music, although the vocalist’s Freddie Mercury-meets-Halford vibe is certainly no more contrived or theatrical than corpse paint and stage blood. And for someone who grew up on Maiden and Priest, it’s actually kind of nostalgic.
I found Golden Plague on Bandcamp. It too is impressive in its squalor and songcraft.
Damn you, Andy Synn! I need more music like I need less money (i.e. not at all), and yet here I am on the brink of purchasing two albums that weren’t even on my radar.
I apologise for nothing…
Also I think they are remarkably self-aware, but still incredibly serious. I think that’s why the video works – they’ve gone into it knowing it could just be a jumble of black metal (and heavy metal) cliches, but have done it with the proper level of commitment necessary to make it ‘legit’.
“Self-aware and incredibly serious” is an excellent description. Maybe “The Monster Magnet of Black Metal?” They also put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen and are incredibly friendly fellows (which was great for a fanboy like me).
“The Monster Magnet of Black Metal”