As the end of the year rapidly approaches, we have an occasion to cast our minds back to one of the astonishing ways in which the year began.
On the first day of February we premiered a song named “Trismegistus” from the third album by the Australian experimental black metal band Arkheth. That album, entitled 12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew, was subsequently released on February 20th by Transcending Obscurity Records. It really was a remarkable piece of music, one well worth remembering now on the solstice, almost 11 months later. And while the song itself is a rich tapestry of sound — mad, mercurial, mystifying, and majestic — it’s now being presented with a perfectly matched lyric video that presents an equally remarkable tapestry of sights.
“Magic through madness!” You’ll see and hear those words in the song’s lyrics (which, unlike so many metal lyrics, are well worth consuming), and they form an apt encapsulation of this musical experience, which is an homage to the thrice-great god of wisdom and author of the Hermetic Corpus, Hermes Trismegistus. But while those words provide a good summing-up of this bewildering and bewitching piece of sonic sorcery, I’ll repeat the impressions I shared back in early February:
This is the kind of song that makes you wonder how it could have been conceived from a blank slate, and then makes you wonder further how the ideas could have been realized so well in the execution. It is a strange and wondrous cornucopia of sounds, almost labyrinthine in its abrupt twists and turns, and with psychoactive properties as well, producing an effect on the listener that’s disorienting but also beguiling.
The first time through the song may simply leave you startled, but with the music’s melodic accents lingering like an exotic perfume. Additional trips through the song lead to a greater understanding and appreciation for what you’ve heard, and perhaps unexpectedly, the song’s macabre contortions become increasingly captivating.
There’s a black metal framework beneath all these twisted, thorny vines and night-blooming flowers — episodes of blasting drums, attacking tremolo vibrations, and cracked, snarling vocals redolent of malicious evil. But what’s incorporated within and around that framework is what really makes the music so different:
A mix of wailing chords and writhing leads; soaring ambient layers that lend the music an air of grandeur; bursts of shrill guitar discordance and the freakish blurting of a saxophone; martial snare patterns and a down-shift into a slow, loping gait; the ratcheting of tension and the emergence of ominous, haunted melodic accents; injections of spoken-word samples as the music boils in a cacophonous frenzy; the melody developing a heart-aching, sorrowing shade, mixed with the urgency of incipient madness; and as the sound subsides at the end, words whispered in your ear.
It’s a heady trip, and a haunting one, a creation that seems to straddle a line between ingenuity and insanity.
And now this fascinating musical journey is matched with something that’s visual fascinating as well.
P.S. If you managed to miss the album when it was released, we’ll include a full stream below the video.