Sep 132016



Recluse is the solo black metal project of Phil McSorley, who was a member of Cobalt for most of that band’s history so far. The first Recluse demo was released by Graceless Recordings in 2013, and the next year brought an EP named Frozen Blood and a compilation under the name of The Black Famine. On September 16, Darker Than Black Records will release the first Recluse LP, Stillbirth In Bethlehem (with a CD edition coming from Vault of Dried Bones).

McSorley plays everything on Stillbirth, but the vocals include not only McSorley’s but also contributions on each track by Wlad Drakksteim of Vlad Tepes in his first recording since that band’s last release, Morte Lune, in 1996.

For fans of the French black metal collective from the ’90s known as Les Légions Noires, the appearance of Wlad will itself be reason enough to dive into this album. Beyond that, Stillbirth could be understood in other ways as an homage to the LNN and such bands as Belkètre, Torgeist, and of course Vlad Tepes itself. But the album is worth hearing even if you know nothing of the Black Legions or (like me) have only brushed against the surface of their music.


It’s an understatement to say that Stillbirth is an intense experience. Listening to it is like entering the mouth of hell, or at least a particular kind of hell. It’s a closed circuit of pain, hatred, violence, and grief.

When I first heard the album, and as you will hear it below, it was as a single track (and it may eventually be released as such in a later edition), even though it consists of 12 tracks, most of them in the two-to-three minute range. I eventually listened to it with an index based on individual song titles and lengths, because otherwise it’s not always clear when one track ends and the next one begins.

Some of these tracks could stand alone, because they are stitched with penetrating melodies. The rest may make sense only in the context of the album as a whole, as tools used to deepen the overall experience — the experience of hurtling into a vortex of horrors.


Significant portions of the album are composed of eerie, flesh-crawling, deeply unsettling ambient sounds, coupled with the even more unsettling vocals (which I’ll come back to) or of dense storms of harsh, abrasive, violent noise — typhoons of distortion, discordance, drone, and feedback.

The tracks in which this horrifying black noise is dominant come on the B-side of the album. The songs that could best stand alone are to be found on Side A. A dismal, rising and falling melody threads its way through the rapidly pulsing drums and violent riffs of “Canticle of Murder”. “Semen and Blood” courses with a high, vibrating lead guitar melody with a doomed and mournful aura that’s absolutely magnetic.

Another melancholy melody glides over the bleak and seething maelstrom that bears the name “Wine of Rape”. The first song on the B-side, “Defleshed Galilean”, is warlike and vicious, yet it too includes searing, aching melodic components as well as a hell of a catchy riff near the end.

Where they appear, the melodies are simple, but crafted in a way that gets their hooks in your head, while your head is being torn apart by the assault of other forces. They are beleaguered and devastated in their mood, a painful glimpse of humanity in an otherwise inhuman and terrifying descent into a hostile realm of derangement and disgust. (The sound of birdsong and rushing water in the album’s closing track is about the only other touchstone to a world that isn’t being ripped apart.)


From beginning to end, the album is beset by a pack of monsters. The voices of McSorley and Wlad Drakksteim are undoubtedly terrifying instruments by themselves, but they have been further distorted, twisted, and mutilated by a variety of effects, and the results are frequently layered to produce a cacophony of unhinged and inhuman expressions — reptilian growling, gurgling, howling, shrieking, feeding, regurgitating, gasping, groaning.

A convocation of demons in a blood frenzy could not be any more disconcerting or chilling in its effect than what comes from the throats of Wlad and McSorley, as further tortured by the latter’s electronic manipulations. Those unnerving sounds are an inseparable part of the album’s mind-shattering impact.


I listen to, and enjoy, a lot of extreme, abrasive, violent metal, and I occasionally dabble in harsh noise. Even so, this album is out on the edge of my usual listening. It pushes the limits of audio terror with torrential gales of tuneless, rhythm-less, harrowing, discordant sound. It seems devoted to the creation of an atmosphere of ugliness and suffering, or simply the expression of a fractured and sinking soul.

I’m virtually certain that I don’t share or probably even understand the feelings and thoughts that inspired and are expressed by this album. Of course, I despise and detest certain individuals — who doesn’t? But with my almost invariably sunny disposition and general tolerance and even enjoyment of most people I meet, I doubt I have much in common with McSorley.

In my case, that doesn’t matter enough to turn me away from this album, even though I’m sure it will matter a lot to others. In my case, there is something about the experience of listening to Stillbirth In Bethlehem that feeds the need for raw, brain-scraping, soul-scouring emotional intensity in music. Beyond that, the technique and obvious care that went into the creation of this disturbing experience are also worth appreciating. And the songs that have a melodic component pierce the heart in a compelling way — just as they try to claw it into tatters.


A full stream of the album is below, formatted as a single track. I’ve included an index to the track list and run-times. As mentioned, Darker Than Black Records will release the LP, while Vault of Dried Bones is now offering pre-orders for a CD edition (here), and a tape is expected as well.

Side A
1. Canticle of Murder 02:37
2. Semen and Blood 02:12
3. Hasidic Insect 01:15
4. Wine of Rape 04:26

Side B
5. Defleshed Galilean 04:57
6. Howling Scorched Spectre 01:40
7. Candlelit Torture 04:43
8. Crematory Womb 03:37
9. Boiling Childrens Genitals 02:30
10. Deformed Faggot of Bethlehem 02:27
11. I Destroyed a Tomb and Humiliated the Corpse 02:17
12. Hidden Bodies 02:47

Total: 35:28



  1. I have no interest in supporting labels that put out NSBM bands. Fuck that shit. Plenty of other great music out there.

    • This kind of music is not for people like you.

    • seems like a record with titles like “Deformed Faggot of Bethlehem” may not be something you’d want to support either. Just go on back to listening to Alcest or Deafheaven in your “safe space” while the rest of us enjoy something great here. Total support to DTB recs!

      • I love how you brought up the words “safe space” which no-one else had mentioned.

        Also, the new Alcest is really good btw.

    • Why do people like you always come around? Go throw on some Iskra.

    • I absolutely agree about not supporting NS labels, and I think people should know which labels could be funding organizations which lead to violence. However, saying “there are other bands” is often far from the truth. Walknut, for example, destroys literally 99% of Black Metal that has ever existed. Classics like Temnozor and Nokturnal Mortum, newer bands such as Ygg, and even bands with NS associations such as Khors and Kroda are some of the best the genre has to offer. So no, I can’t back you up on that, and I would love to hear ten or so bands that really compare with the aforementioned.

      Thankfully, we have youtube and bandcamp, because I personally avoid buying new albums from any bands that are suspect.

      • I was genuinely curious due to this comment and looked up all the bands you mentioned, and I really think you can do better than all of this music. Walknut is not as good as their obvious influences (Drudkh/Hate Forest), Temnozor and Nokturnal Mortum are average at best (I prefer Bathory, Windir, Panopticon…). Khors and Kroda are fairly standard quality too, and both call themselves “apolitical”. It’s relatively easy to avoid music that espouses a repugnant ideology.

        • Yeah, you do realize that Hate Forest are national socialist right? And share members with Drudkh?

          And referencing Panopticon shows you’re a useless faggot.

          • Sorry man but I really think that was a major bias to discredit how amazing Walknut was. There is no way
            you would say that if you did not know of any connections, I refuse to believe it.

            I love how people still want to ignore the fact that dudes who overly exaggerate there manliness tend to be the biggest, “fags”, to use that in a joking way. Not all of us are “safe space SJW’s” who simultaenously recognize the FACT that being gay is not only very common (never heard of the Kinsey report, I assume? This information is 40 years old) but those who take such issue with it are the biggest flamers.

            So in other words, Savitri, you’re basically advertising, now shutup and send me a dick pick like we all know you’re yearning to do.

            Also, Panopticon/Aaron is a better musician, person, brewer, and human being, than you ever will be.

  2. Maybe people should be more concerned that this just isn’t a very good record.

  3. Nothing wrong with individuals not wanting to support a label for whatever reason they choose. I dont see Brklyner throwing shit on people for wanting to buy this album, hes making a decision for himself…so until he does, anyone throwing around phrases like “safe spaces” and “this music isnt for you” can kindly fuck off

  4. I’m a big fan of McSorley’s projects, including Cobalt and Man’s Gin. He’s one of the best guitarists working today. On Cobalt’s “Slow Forever” track, “Hunt the Buffalo”, as well as the rest of that terrific recent album, McSorley demonstrates he’s one of the best axemen working today. He’s managed to combine classic, hook-based riffs with Swans’ style noise rock. He’s a distinctive extreme metal voice. I wouldn’t pre-judge any projects he’s attached to without giving it a fair listen.

    • Ok, I just confused McSorley with Erik Wunder, who’s actually the guitarist/multiinstrumentalist of Cobalt and Man’s Gin. McSorley had nothing to do with Slow Forever, so far as I know. My apologies. I’m an idiot.

  5. This stated off really cool but when the scary vocals starting kicking off I had to shut off my computer and go to my safe space. I think one day I will try to listen to the rest, until then I will stick with WITTR… I am not sure if I even like black metal anymore… Is this even black metal?

  6. Its great that with the proper titles you can keep away faggots and sensitive newcomers. This is BLACK METAL. If you feel offended, then go and listen watain, inquisition, behemoth and tons of other crap out there.
    Coming to this release. Great album!!! for sure i`ll buy this. Total support to Recluse & Darker Than Black.

    • That’s some good stuff there.

    • First, what the hell is wrong with Inquisition?

      Second, do you honestly not see the irony in calling someone else a sensitive newcomer while you whine like a bitch? Dude didnt say it should go away, or that no one else can buy it…He said he, personally, dosnt want to support it. Nothing wrong with that

    • such a tough guy!!!

  7. I wasn’t going to touch this post because I already know that McSoreass and his poor attitude and his sub par musicianship are not for me. But hearing some of you “out of the woodwork” types trying to claim some honest ground for yourselves by dissing others who aren’t comfortable with hating people based on their race or gender specification can seriously go fuck off.

    Its not like the music you listen to make you personally special or cooler in any way. For most of us, what we like isn’t a choice, its just what it is, but you insidious types who rep a band like its a badge of some secret club.. sheesh.. fucking sheesh man… Its 2016 and anyone can find anything and like it or comment on it. Long gone are the days of a music scene being some sort of holy grail that you had to forge new paths to find. If this is the kind of stuff you base your special little personal feelings on then I rue the day the real world knocks on yr door and asks for something more of you, because you will have woefully little to offer at that point. Or maybe you can just wave an Arghoslent record around and feel cool again.

  8. Impaled Northern Moonforest is better.

  9. The vocals on this are pretty neat but otherwise it’s extremely subpar even by the standards of “raw black metal”. Thanks but no thanks.

    If racism and bigotry makes music “kvlt”, that’s a sad commentary on the state of black metal. This shit was infantile and pathetic even back when Darkthrone did it.

  10. Unsurprisingly polarizing. Divorcing the music from McSorley’s personality and politics, I actually found the album pretty riveting and a immersive, disturbing listening experience. Kudos to NCS for the review and the support of dissenting opinions in the comments.

    • Thank you very much.

    • I vehemently disagree with NS and other ridiculous racist bullshit, but I find it easy to distance myself from those ideologies while enjoying music. I can like Burzum and not be a right wing racist.

      It’s just art, art is not an act of violence. Art should never be censored, even if you find the subject deplorable.

  11. Reminds me a bit of Lurker of Chalice actually. Especially the latter half of the album. Will definitely be picking this one upl

    • Also the most immediate reference I heard, to be honest. Kind of like True Traitor’s unrestrained rage translated through Lurker’s dissociating and alien sound.

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