It’s always a pleasure to find reasons to install the artwork of Paolo Girardi at the top of our page, and we have that pleasure again today. It’s an even greater pleasure when we discover that the music his creations introduce is just as striking as the art, which is true here.
On this occasion Signore Girardi‘s eye-catching painting adorns a split release entitled Primal Death Rites that will be released by the Los Angeles-based label The Elegy Ensemble on February 20th (today!). It includes one track each by the black metal bands Icon of Phobos and Katheksis, and to help spread the word we’re streaming both of them for you today.
SoCal’s Icon of Phobos haven’t been prolific in their release of music, with their discography consisting of only a 2011 self-titled full-length. Thus, their song on this new split, “Detriment and Dominance“, marks a long-awaited recording return.
This new song is immensely powerful and wholly immersive, engulfing the senses in a blaze of hurtling drums, deep moaning bass tones, and dense, cyclonic riffage, with imperious roaring and screaming vocals rising above the grand maelstrom. And it is indeed grand. The music creates sensations of overpowering majesty, but it is the kind of solemn yet harrowing grandeur that intertwines feelings of doom and terror, of desolation and death. When the rampant drumming slows and eventually disappears, ethereal guitar leads spiral out and shriek, their eerie reverberations giving the music an intensely otherworldly aura, as if a grim ritual of supplication has been rewarded by the presence of wraiths from the realms of the dead.
Katheksis, also based in Southern California, is even more obscure than Icon of Phobos. Very little information is available, and it appears that the song on this split is the project’s first release (though I’ve read that an EP should be ready for release later this year).
“I Am Death” is also delivered with dramatic power, but as compared to the Icon of Phobos song it is more ravaging and inflamed at first, with riffing that deliriously sears and whirls in a carnal dance, and vocals that sound possessed and stripped of all restraint. The drum and bass performances are as compelling as the chaos channeled by the song’s opening, giving the song both heft and neck-snapping force.
At about the mid-point, the surging pulse of the song slows. The rhythm section is just as gut-slugging as ever, though more measured in their punishment, and the timbre of the riffing becomes more desolate and deranged, and the vocals perhaps even more torn and tormented. When the song builds again, it transitions through various phases of tempo and mood, all of them unsettling to varying degrees, and the melody in the instrumental section during the song’s second half (when the pace slows again), becomes exotic as well as wrenching in its anguish. The song is capped by a haunting and horror-shaded finale accented by piano.
Did I mention that the vocals are insane?
Tremendous song, just as the Icon of Phobos song is. Together they make for a very impressive split — and both of them give us powerful reasons to eagerly await more new music from both of these projects.
The Elegy Ensemble is releasing Primal Death Rites digitally and on 300 hand-numbered vinyl records that include a poster, an insert, and a pin. Pre-orders are available now:
ICON OF PHOBOS: