Those of you who are already familiar with Gabriele Gramaglia‘s work in his progressive black metal project The Clearing Path, or his progressive-sludge-post-metal endeavors under the name Summit, know that he is technically accomplished, compositionally inventive, and continually evolving. In his new project, Cosmic Putrefaction, he has turned all those talents in the direction of death metal — and the results are predictably unpredictable.
With the aid of some talented guests, he has recorded a debut album entitled At the Threshold of the Greatest Chasm, which will be released by the always-distinctive I, Voidhanger Records on April 19th, and today it’s our fiendish pleasure to present a full stream of this savagely head-spinning record.
Gramaglia performs all the instruments on At the Threshold…, and some of the vocals as well, but the main vocals come from Brendan Sloan of Convulsing (who also turns in a vitriolic guitar solo in “The Ruinous Downfall”), with lead vocals on “The Herald Prophecy” executed by XN (from the Italian blackened death metal band Hadit). The vocals provide just the right complement to the music — because the array of ghastly roars, scorching shrieks, and gruesome gagging utterances are all ferociously deranged, and an atmosphere of derangement hangs about much of the music as well.
The songs are constantly veering, the rhythms and tempos in continual flux, the fretwork freakishly intricate and destabilizing. That overarching air of dementia ranges from crazed melees of rampant viciousness to brooding, muttering insanity — with moments of soaring magnificence.
The album is not exactly loaded with catchy riffs, not made for frequent headbanging, not content to follow straight-forward, well-paved paths. Instead, it’s the kind of album that delivers a thrill-ride — a hellish sonic roller-coaster you experience blind-folded so you don’t see what’s coming. And while the atmosphere, at a high level, is one of derangement, it has other atmospheric qualities that lead the listener off into eerie pan-dimensional and cosmic realms.
The album includes nine tracks, but they collectively run at just shy of half an hour. It starts strong with “The Perpetual Orbit” and ends very strong with the closing tandem of “The Ruinous Downfall” and “The Dismal Black Nothingness”. A distorted speaking voice and spooky, echoing strings draw us slowly into the opener, joined by a gleaming melodic motif that intensifies the mystical resonance of the song. And then the heavy stuff arrives. That melody persists, but becomes more wrenching, pained, and destructive.
The next three songs — “The Acrimonious Darkness”, “The Unheard Shrieks”, and “The Herald Prophecy” — are all relatively brief, barely more than two minutes a piece, and they all stop abruptly – which is a little jarring, but why should you get comfortable? Violence and chaos reign in the first of those, while the second is the kind of rampaging rush that usually induces circle pits (though it slows to a lurching stomp laced with bursts of guitar frenzy), and the third is a blizzard of insectile, skittering strings and pummeling percussion punctuated by jolting stop-start rhythms.
There’s more meat on the bones of “The Ancient Demagogue”, which lasts more than three minutes — long enough for the song to move from gloomy and poisonous to crazed and chaotic. And then we come to a two-part track (“The Outermost Threat”) where the roller-coaster takes another unexpected turn. The first part is pure mayhem, all grinding guitar savagery and clobbering drumwork, but it smoothly segues into the second part, which unfolds through mournful, stately, symphonic strings and spectral piano tones. The music begins to shimmer, guiding us out into the cosmic void. Only near the end does the sound swell and become more disturbing, with the enormous boom of drums and an abrading, pulsating cloak of sound.
Finally, we arrive at that powerful closing tandem. “The Ruinous Downfall” is an assault of jolting, battering, and ravaging sound, full of darting riffs, screeching strings, and bursts of blasting drums, with the vocals channeling painful delirium and remorseless hostility, and eventually shifting gears into a lurching cadence with a dismal riff and a hallucinatory mood (there’s a wild solo in this one, too).
“The Dismal Black Nothingness” is the song that has stayed in this writer’s head most persistently, maybe in part because it closes the album, and is a personal favorite. Brooding and vicious at first, it becomes an electrifying frenzy.
Though I always hesitate to mention other bands in a review, I’ll say that at different moments across the album I got flashes of Gorguts, Blood Incantation, and even Dysrhythmia. It’s a fine melding of obliteration, progressive intricacy and off-kilter dynamics, and penetrating mood. And the album provides good reason to hope that this will not be the last we’ve heard from Cosmic Putrefaction.
I, Voidhanger will release the album in a jewel-box CD edition with a richly adorned lyric booklet. It features a cover painting by Ivory Crux and art direction and layout by Francesco Gemelli. Caligari Records will also be releasing the album on cassette tape.