(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Sweden’s Mephorash.)
One unfortunate consequence of the way that much of our musical culture has developed over the years, particularly with the rise of digital dissemination and access, has been that many of us are much less likely to allow a band the time to develop over multiple releases before we “invest” in them fully – too often we unfairly demand that a band appear “fully formed” on their first release, or else we end up writing them off before they’ve even had a chance to find their feet.
And while I can see both sides of the reasoning behind this attitude, it’s not always the fairest way of assessing a band’s future potential. Sure, it may have raised the bar for debut albums/EPs (though this is hard to quantify), but it also means we’ve probably missed out on a lot of bands who took a little while longer to really hit their stride.
Case in point, I didn’t really give Swedish occultists Mephorash the time of day until only very recently, as although I’d heard both their previous albums, nothing from them really stood out to me. Those are not bad, not by any means (my advice is to ignore the rather venomous reviews on Metal-Archives), but they just didn’t captivate me. They didn’t have that X-factor that makes an album stand out from the pack.
Thankfully, the times, they are a’changin’…
It was actually thanks to one of my more artistically-gifted friends that I ended up encountering Mephorash, after he was engaged to provide artwork for this, their third album. Following a number of fascinating conversations with the band and with occult author G. De Laval, whose work serves as the primary basis for the album’s lyrical content, he told me I really needed to give them another chance, as not only had their musical talents continued to improve (not that they were lacking in the first place), but also that the group now clearly had a much more defined and distinctive vision for their music.
And, having listened to the album (as well as the spiffing Sfaíra Ti̱s Fo̱tiás EP which preceded it), I can see that he wasn’t lying.
Containing four tracks, averaging out at around 10 minutes each, 1557 – Rites of Nullification is by leaps and bounds the band’s strongest work to date, overflowing with malevolent atmosphere and arcane energy.
Though the riffs are indeed sharper and more incisive than ever, the melodies bleaker and more evocative, the vocals more powerful and caustic in their venomous exhortations, what really sets the album apart from its predecessors is the sense of life and vitality that shines through on every single track, a palpable sense of pitch-black devotion that runs all the way down to the marrow.
Though each of the album’s four tracks is certainly ambitious in length, they never feel stretched too thin, or bloated beyond their means. In truth, the band appear to have hit upon a scintillating formula here, with every song shifting dynamically from gargantuan, blackened bombast, to eerie, shivering atmospherics, to scorching savagery, simultaneously intense and reflective, enigmatic and destructive.
Whereas on previous albums the Swedes felt a little too in thrall to their influences – following in the footsteps of their predecessors a little too slavishly, both sonically and thematically – Rites of Nullification sees them slowly but surely beginning to separate themselves from the pack, establishing a clear identity of their own and laying the foundations for yet further growth and expansion of their newfound vision.
Although Rites of Nullification is probably one of my favourite Black Metal albums of the year – based on the strength of its songwriting and sheer exuberance alone – It’s clear that Mephorash still haven’t quite finished developing as a band, as some overt similarities to other acts remain undeniable (and, perhaps, unavoidable), most notably to Polish deviants Vesania, in particular during closer “Berberioth – Vandalising the Throne of Atziluth”.
But this is, in many ways, a blessing in disguise, for as good as this album is, there remains a looming sensation of more still to come from the band, of greater potential lurking just beneath the surface that has only just begun to rear its head.
It’s always gratifying to see a band start to develop into something special, and although they still have work left to do if they’re to truly reach the top of the mountain, Mephorash are certainly shaping up into a formidable force indeed.
1557 — Rites of Nullification, which features cover art by Michael Cowell (www.michael-cowell.com), will be released by Odium Records this month and can be pre-ordered here. Below, you can listen to “Riphyon – The Tree of Assiyah Putrescent”, which includes a guest vocal appearance by Nebiros of Malign, ex-Ofermod: