(Austin Weber reviews the forthcoming debut album by Toronto’s Thantifaxath.)
In the last few years, the black metal scene has taken an even darker turn, with many new acts expanding upon the influence of Deathspell Omega and others who have been turning black metal upside down and reinventing the evil within it. This is where the (literally) cloaked-in-anonymity Canadian group Thantifaxath come in. They reside somewhere within the frenzied straightforward past of the genre, while joining this new class of frightening dissonant acts, whose main goal is to make your ears recoil in uncomfortable revulsion.
Thantifaxath are focused on making your skin crawl and confusing your ears. The focus of this record is not on steamrolling you with aggression, but abducting and torturing you, utilizing bizarre methods and engulfing you in a sense of creepy unease. They leave you alone in the fathomless shadows of their music to cringe, become crippled by, and subsequently caught in its ceaseless sickness. Their memorable draw lies in their eerie riffing submerged in darkness and pain, memorable riffs that stick surprisingly easily in the brain like an inviting descent into hell.
Sacred White Noise does have its bouts of straightforward aggression, but overall spends more of its time in uncomfortable, lingering instrumental passages bookended by static and noise, producing disorientation in dreadful, ominous waves. For as grim as this sounds, the music somehow hits a sort of epic note, but not in the usual manner of high climaxes and crescendos. It comes instead from from a compositional strategy, as these songs are heaving, frantic, slippery oceans, dispersing volatile sonic waves that are constantly flipped, whipped, and spun in different directions and intensities. It leaves the listener all but lost in this punishing, difficult murk with no choice but to drown. There is no fighting this Sacred White Noise.
Opener “The Bright White Nothing At The End Of The Tunnel” sets the template and tone: Creepy unconventional riffing, hateful smashing drums, throaty saliva-dispersing screamed howls, all driven by a desire to discomfort and disarm. The next two tracks feature more of this same type of madness, augmented somewhat by orchestral hums and vocal choral swells until the track after those delivers a necessary instrumental break.
As instrumentals go, “Eternally Falling” bucks the norm. Instead of providing a soothing respite, it swarms over you like a snippet from a psychological horror film score. Its spare black underbelly and restrained drumming mesh perfectly with cold, vibrant violin playing, a finely crafted surrealistic nightmare piece.
The album closer, “Lost in Static Between Worlds”, is a stunning conclusion and the strongest and most deranged track on the album. It’s an 11-minute behemoth that could easily have meandered or floundered in excessive repetition, yet nary a wasted moment of filler clouds this monstrous entity. The song features yet another extended violin appearance, and its use in the intro is haunting, verging on mournfully beautiful. From there, furious off-kilter aggressive movements take hold, while the music later diverges into some dizzying alien shredding midway. Slowly, it then lumbers into desolate doomscapes, and finally, as the title suggests, fizzles into sweet sacred static, returning to the emptiness from whence it spouted.
Sacred White Noise is seriously warped black metal, a byproduct of the filth that has come before it, yet somehow dirtier, more unearthly, and more accurately probing the depths of decay and depravity than many of its predecessors. This strange mixture of both conventional and unconventional strains of the genre work in tandem to deliver a misery that howls in futility and captivates with its creatively conjured cruelty.
Thantifaxath’s Sacred White Noise comes out April 15th on Dark Descent Records. Order here.