Ekstrophë is the name of an album-length compilation by six black metal bands, some of whom haven’t been heard from in years and some of whom have created outstanding 2017 releases already: Devouring Star (Finland), Flagellant (Sweden), Arfsynd (Sweden), Ibex Angel Order (Netherlands), Dødsengel (Norway), and Chalice of Blood (Sweden). Each band has contributed one song to the album, and they are all tied together with ambient passages created by Norway’s Black Majesty and the Temple of Erythran Current.
Hints about this collaborative effort surfaced earlier in the year, but today we can provide details about its release through Terratur Possessions, as well as a full stream of all the music.
The album will be released on black and clear purple vinyl with a 16-page booklet that includes separate lyric sheets and artwork for each track by Cold Poison.
The interstitial Black Majesty passages are unearthly, ranging from the swelling symphonic sounds that precede the first track to the gleaming, shimmering ambience that introduces the last one like the slow rise of a red sun over an indigo planet. But while those spectral intros do link the songs together, the tracks are also tied together in other ways.
Terratur Possessions explains that each band’s track presents “the soundscape of disembodiment through their perspective”. And after listening to the album, it makes sense that it is entitled Ekstrophë, an ancient Greek word that seems to refer to something that has been turned inside out.
At a fundamental level, a palpable atmosphere of otherworldly evil flows through the songs, as well as persistent feelings of derangement and disorientation. Listening is like being caught in a vertiginous black whirlpool, one that seems to pull you ever deeper into a nightmarish descent toward the heart of darkness as it slashes through the moorings of your mind (or turns it inside out).
Devouring Star, who has already released a superb new EP this year in Antihedron (and has a split release with Caecus coming our way through Terratur next year), begins the album with “Mors Invicta” — an oppressive, horrifying, and arcane piece of music. Launched by sibilant whispering and then something like the roaring of wind, it builds from slow, distorted notes that are grim and ominous, and a terrifying scream. The drum detonations become a rumbling avalanche and then a thunderous blasting, and that groaning, earth-cracking riff morphs into a pestilential swarming sound, oozing black poison behind vicious, livid howls. A malign, brooding presence seems to loom over the track like unconquerable death.
Flagellant (whose last album was 2013’s Maledictum) follow that soul-staggering first song with “Great Illuminating Void Awareness“. It is also ominous and arcane, but the song’s dissonant, disturbing guitar vibrations and weird pealing notes constantly ratchet the tension. Aided by bestial, bile-spewing vocals, the music puts a chill on the skin that seeps into the bones. When the drums begin to pound and the unearthly melody begins to loop through the balance of the song, it becomes a haunting but dizzying experience.
While the album’s first two tracks are deeply unsettling, the fast, hammering rhythm and warped, writhing riffs of Arfsynd’s “Flesh of God” create a manifestation of feverish derangement almost immediately. The song reveals a different side of Arfsynd’s sole creator, Grift’s Erik Gärdefors. His scarring howls and a flickering, superheated solo only enhance the song’s delirious, reptilian qualities. When the pace slows near the end, the music becomes sickeningly dismal, even more bleak and blasted than the preceding displays of insanity.
If you’re feeling kind of queasy after “Flesh of God“, you might feel even more unbalanced by the time “Abraxas Rises To Be Crowned” reaches its conclusion. The song, which is Ibex Angel Order’s contribution to the album, has a pneumatic drum drive, lashed by dramatic cymbal crashes, but the riffing is cyclonic, dissonant, and berserk, as are the strangled shrieks and wild, boiling cries through which the lyrics are exclaimed. The melodies in the song are a bewildering mix of toxicity and infernal majesty, and the drumming is explosive, building to a crescendo of catastrophe.
Dødsengel’s Interequinox album made a big, mind-bending impact this year, and so does the nearly eleven-minute track they recorded for Ekstrophë. The mounting intensity of the album recedes — but only briefly — during the early phase of “Arcane Slumber“, as gigantic, mid-paced drum booms and a gravel-crunching bass move the song, along with heaving, lurching chords fragrant with an air of decay and degradation. But a bridge of queasy guitar notes leads to a rocking backbeat, a haze of morbid riffing, and a disturbing lead, and there is no reprieve in the intensity of the vocals, which are vicious and ear-mangling, ranging from crocodilian growls to tortured screams.
“Arcane Slumber” truly is a nightmarish, hallucinatory track. As the drums begin to gallop, the music becomes increasingly grim and unhinged. The drumming shifts to a near-rhythmless avalanche rain of boulders and then turns to thundering, the guitars generating a buzzing shroud of distortion pierced by a strange tinkling keyboard arpeggio. When the drums begin to drive again, the guitars rise into a macabre repeating melody over the skull-cracking percussive pounding, and the music becomes even more ghoulish and uncomfortable.
Of all the tracks included in this compilation, the final song — “Shimmering” by Chalice of Blood — comes closest to escaping the hellish vortex of derangement and death that spins throughout the album. Launched by immediate blasting drums and a deep pounding bass, it includes gloriously soaring riffing with an atmosphere mixed between desolation and majesty, defiance and agony. The relentless hard-driving rhythms and the surging energy of the riffs provide a big burst of adrenaline, as do the vocalist’s ugly, fiery snarls — but with two minutes left, the sound subsides into a shimmering ambient drift that carries the album in dreamlike fashion to its close.
Ekstrophë is a masterful piece of pitch-black art, a sonic vision of hell on earth — a vision of hell ascendent, in all its mystery and terror. No mercy is to be found here, no quarter given. And it really will turn your mind inside out before it’s through.
Ekstrophë was mastered by TT of Abigor, and it features artwork and layout by Cold Poison. It will be released by Terratur Possessions on a date that is yet to be announced. For further info, follow the links below. And after the stream player below, take a look at the flyer which reveals what else Terratur Possessions will be releasing in the coming months.