(The subject of Andy Synn’s 86th SYNN REPORT is the discography of the French black metal band Merrimack.)
Recommended for fans of: Marduk, Enthroned, Watain
Black Metal has gone in a lot of different directions since its inception, expanding its horizons and stretching its boundaries in so many different ways that it’s almost impossible to count them all.
But sometimes you just need a dose of pure sonic sadism. Sometimes you need Merrimack.
Over the course of five albums (the most recent of which came out at the start of this month), guitarist Perversifier (the last remaining original member of the group) and his merry merciless men have unleashed their own particular brand of auditory hell upon the world with little to no regard for those innocents who might end up caught in the crossfire, as well as delivering a live show which often teeters on the edge of “unhinged”.
So if you’re looking for something black as pitch, and just as incendiary, then please… read on.
ASHES OF PURIFICATION – 2002
The debut Merrimack album is eight tracks/forty-one minutes of violent, venomous Black Metal which pulls absolutely no punches, exploding into life with raw and ravenous opener “Suicide”, which gallops roughshod over your eardrums in a blistering display of toxic riffs and caustic vocals, before the grimy “Paedophilic Orgasmatron” (yes, that is its real title) lurches its way out of the mist and murk.
“Noigel” speeds things up again, all brittle, twisted tremolo melodies (and I use the term “melody” lightly) and ribcage-rattling percussion, all edged with a creepy, disturbing dissonance and underpinned by a sense of sickening, serpentine groove, after which the cadaverous clamour of “The Fall Amongst the Legion of Slaves” and the searing strains of “Live the Lie” keep the intensity levels firmly in the red, while also managing to weave a certain air of gloomy menace and slow-building horror into the proceedings.
“Horns Defeat Thorns” not only has a killer title, but also a plethora of killer riffs and cruelly cathartic vocals to its name, as well as displaying the band’s surprising knack for injecting their sound with a dash of melancholy melody when you least expect it – something which could also be said for its follow-up, the rather aptly-named “Blood”, which combines rusted, saw-toothed guitar work with moments of bleak atmosphere and ambience to great (and grim) effect.
Drawing to a close with the contorted riffery and distorted (dis)harmony of its title-track (which just so happens to be one of the best songs on the entire album), Ashes of Purification is a perfect primer for those who want to embrace their dark side a little more. Just remember, it only gets better/worse (delete as appropriate) from here…
OF ENTROPY AND LIFE DENIAL – 2006
On Of Entropy and Life Denial it’s clear that Merrimack (now with a new bassist and vocalist) have taken on a whole new lease of life, with the whole package sounding bigger, bolder, and more bombastic than ever, kicking off with the neck-wrecking “Seraphic Conspiracy” – all demonic blastbeats and rumbling, loin-churning grooves – and the shapeshifting “Melancholia Balneam Diaboli”, which immediately showcase the band’s newfound clarity of sound and vision, while still retaining that same inherent sense of danger and ravenous energy as its predecessor.
The sheer bedlam and blasphemy unleashed on “Redeem Restless Souls” gives the album an extra kick of adrenaline, showcasing some surprisingly fleet fretwork and some cruelly catchy vocals in the process, while the blast-fuelled frenzy of “Insemination” hits you with all the force of a runaway freight train.
The transition from the raging fury of “Insemination” to the brooding darkness of “The Birth of a Life’s Sacerdoce” is sudden enough to induce whiplash if you’re not careful, but the song’s doomy slither helps ensure that you don’t become completely desensitized to the barrage of blasting blasphemy which makes up so much of the band’s repertoire.
As a result when the pulverising “Descension from Life” hits you, it seems to hit twice as hard, with drummer Necrolith pulling out his best Panzer Division… impression for the occasion, while the guitars hack and slash with near reckless abandon, and the vocals spit venom like a cornered cobra.
“Subcutaneous Infection” has the honour being probably the densest, heaviest, track on the entire album – its rumbling riffs and sudden explosions of dissonance all designed to send shards of shrieking sonic shrapnel right into the base of your brainstem – although the stripped-down, straight-to-the-throat assault of “Consecration of the Temple” certainly gives it a run for its money in places.
Following the moody interlude of “Carnaceral” the album concludes with the mesmerising “Adiabatic Bonds of Consanguinity”, which twines together strangling wires of vicious, blasting rage and asphyxiating groove (not to mention a bevy of frankly massive riffs and some sublimely subtle bass work) into one cruelly compelling finale that wraps things up in suitably Satanic fashion.
GREY RIGORISM – 2009
With a greater overall emphasis on desolate, demonic atmosphere, Grey Rigorism signifies something of a shift towards a slightly less “orthodox” approach for the French fivesome, although you wouldn’t immediately know it from the flurry of blastbeats, scything riffs, and lurching rhythms which make up pulverizing opener “The Golden Door”.
This change is far more apparent on “Omniabsence” and “Kirjath-Ra”, however, both of which incorporate a much wider range of warped melodies and deviously discordant riffs, stuttering, staccato rhythms, and brutally barbed hooks, after which the doomy, semi-instrumental strains of “La Sainteté du Mal” serve to ease the listener slowly into the utterly titanic “Cold Earth Mourning”, which not only resets the bar, but wraps it in barbed wire.
The seven-and-a-half-minute title-track takes full advantage of its extended run-time, moving organically from eerie atmosphere, to ominous, oppressive groove, to bracing intensity, all tied together by a pervasive thread of evil, evocative melody. This is followed by the anthemic “When the Stars Align” — whose oddly atonal melodies and rough-edged riffs help craft a compelling, almost ritualistic sound over the course of five, fearsome minutes — and the gloomy, fuzz-filled interlude of “Désaveu”.
Following the obscenely catchy cacophony of “In the Halls of White Death”, Grey Rigorism closes with what is clearly the band’s most ambitious composition yet, a thirteen-minute monolith of heaving guitars and tumultuous, torment-fueled drumwork, all overlain with an aura of pure malevolence, with vocalist Terrorizt (making his last appearance with the band here) vomiting forth a bilious stream of vile invocations and vicious incantations like some sort of unholy preacher caught in the grip of an evangelical fever.
THE ACAUSAL MASS – 2012
Album number four saw the band undergoing another change in personnel, with only mainman Perversifier and bassist Daethorn remaining from the line-up which recorded Grey Rigorism.
The opening maelstrom of “Vestals of Descending Light” – fifty seconds of whirling riffs and chattering drums – quickly demonstrates that this new line-up are as tight and as vicious as ever, however, before making way for the macabre melodic grandeur and grimly infectious guitar work of “Arousing Wombs in Nine Angles Pleroma”, which sees Perversifier and his fellow axe-man A. K. playing cruel games with dissonance and harmony as they work their way through a series of chunky, chugging riffs and scalding tremolo runs.
“Gospel of the Void” is as brutally catchy and gruesomely groovy as anything the band have recorded so far, marrying the primal appeal of classic Watain to a touch of Deathspell Omega’s disharmonic disregard for convention, while the weirdly hypnotic strains of “Beati Estis Cum Maledixerint Vobis” mix and match savage, scorched-earth blastbeats and shamelessly showboating lead guitar work in unexpectedly effective fashion.
“Hypophanie” is an tense, doom-laden number which features some subtly intricate and interesting drumwork from new member Blastum, as well as some gorgeous clean guitar work at its climax, after which “Obstetrics of Devourment” and “Worms in the Divine Intestine” shift things back in a more traditional direction, all thickly coiled, serpentine riffs, lithe, slithering basslines, and wickedly melodic tremolo, with the latter in particular standing out as one of the visceral and virulent tracks on the entire disc.
The ugly, undulating attack of “Abortion Light” (featuring a guest appearance from the acid-scarred vocal chords of Mortuus – Marduk, Funeral Mist) provides the listener with a wealth of suppurating grooves and manic blastbeats, before the album draws to a close with the anxiety-inducing strains of “Liminal Matter Corruption”, which drags them on an excruciating journey through the darkest depths of their own blackened hellscape.
OMEGAPHILIA – 2017
Despite the five year gap between releases, Omegaphilia is, if I’m not mistaken, the first Merrimack album to feature the exact same line-up as the one preceding it, which strongly suggests that the quintet must have bonded as a unit far more than any of their predecessors over the course of those intervening years.
Whether this is true or simply pure supposition, however, it’s impossible to deny how obscenely tight and focused the band sound on “Cauterizing Cosmos”, which, after a creepy, ritualistic opening, transitions into a darkly majestic march of mammoth chords and ringing melodies, and from this into a surging torrent of visceral blackened fury.
“The Falsified Sun” is a pummeling powerhouse of driving drums, howling vocals, and heart-stoppingly intense guitar work which pulls absolutely no punches… although “Apophatic Weaponry” hits just as hard and just as heavy by seamlessly juxtaposing apocalyptic blastery and slow-burning doomery over the course of six-and-a-half morbidly metallic minutes.
“Gutters of Pain” begins with a dreary procession of dark, haunting melody, before the dam finally bursts, unleashing a dizzying torrent of pitch-black punishment and sickening, suffocating grooves that lead the listener – eventually — into the cold embrace of the devastatingly dynamic “Sights in the Abysmal Lure” .
Phenomenal penultimate track, “Cesspool Coronation”, is seven-and-a-half minutes of groaning gloom, and glorious grimness, powered by the furious footwork and whiplash-inducing snare attack of drummer Blastum, interwoven with a series of chillingly effective lead melodies and snarling vocal utterances, which serves to showcase the band’s intriguing blending of orthodox intensity and unorthodox creativity, before the dread-soaked “At the Vanguard of Deception” – which begins as a truly berserk display of utter savagery and venom but which develops, over the course of nine nerve-wracking minutes, into something far more enigmatic and unconventional – hammers the final nail into the coffin in a sadistic display of crushing contempt and disgust.