Just yesterday I was confessing that one of the reasons I’m so open to hosting premieres every day is a selfish motivation — because it affords the opportunity to discover new music from new bands that I might otherwise miss (and that you might miss too!). Sometimes those opportunities bring thrilling surprises, and today it has happened again through the discovery of a fascinating German black metal band named Bestialis.
What you are about to hear, on the day of its release by Vendetta Records, is the debut recording of this group, an EP named Ritus. The formidable success of the EP will be less surprising if you understand that Bestialis is the result of of a long-term artistic and spiritual conspiracy between two artists — vocalist Lastaurus and guitarist Absorber — who have been making music for 20 years; both of them are part of northwestern Germany’s Culthe Collectiv/Culthe Fest (Münster).
What they’ve achieved is both conceptually and musically tantalizing. In their lyrical focus, Bestialis focus on a concept “whose basic premise is to understand humans as – primarily and in the most positive way – animal beings, and thus, at its essence, to explore, proclaim and worship the bestia or beast in man.”. Ritus thus offers an introduction to this concept and puts into its narrative tales of prehistoric bull cults and Persian mythology (such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, provided in the band’s own reinterpretation).
Musically, Bestialis embrace a modern-sounding production, all the better to reveal the elaborate arrangements and multiple instrumental facets within these four tracks. It’s unmistakably rooted in traditional black metal, with generous doses of ripping tremolo’d chords and blasting drums, but it won’t take long for you to discover that the band have opened themselves to other musical influences and cultural origins, and use them to create both primeval, carnal power and also sinister, captivating atmosphere. The vocals alone include not only screams and growls but also clean and throat singing.
The introductory prelude “Incensio” is a mesmerizing yet unsettling experience (which is kind of true of the EP as a whole), created with a mysterious acoustic guitar melody joined by ominous, mountainous chords, crushing drum blows, and strange pinging tones. But the first real outburst comes in “Re-Incantation” and its wild, blazing riffage, hurtling bass-lines, and drumming that alternately blasts and hammers. The snarling vocals are indeed bestial, yet carefully enunciated.
This second song’s melody begins to take on a more forlorn resonance, and a darting arpeggio and pulsing bass notes lead into a grim yet glorious fanfare of sound. The riffing continues to morph, jabbing and swirling over a measured beat, creating an atmosphere of devilry. The band also provide space for an interlude of throat singing over a head-hooking drum-and-bass pattern before the music again vibrates in a mood that’s both feverish and despairing, yearning and almost exultant.
In “Ur-Veneration” the whirring riffs quickly create an atmosphere of cauldron poison simmering over flames, and of encroaching menace. A clanging bass solo, joined by rippling acoustic guitar, solemn chants, and big booming drums, add an air of sorcery and ritual to the experience. As the rhythm section lock into yet another head-moving cadence, the guitars slash and throb, quiver and slither, creating a feeling that’s both thrilling and threatening, frightening and vicious — and the music then explodes in a whirlwind of jet-fueled riffing, pummeling drums, barbaric growls, and sinister throat-singing — and settles into a closing sensation that’s cold and cruel.
A riveting tribal drum pattern sets the stage for the final track, “Non-Domestication: Fall Of Gilgamesh“, which jolts and blares in a livid display of rapturous possession. As ever, the bass-and-drum partnership creates a viscerally compelling impact, and the riffing is electric, even when it radiates bleakness, and even more so as it pulses like an over-driven black heart.
Consistent with the song’s title and theme, there’s a primal quality to the music, something that connects with ancient memories and esoteric aspirations, and again a feeling of frightening ritual augmented by fervent voices and savage snarls. A closing passage of acoustic guitar and throat-singing creates a hypnotic effect, but doesn’t diminish the feeling that we have been transported into the midst of a dark ceremony.
So yes, this is a great new discovery, and this EP holds a lot of promise for what Bestialis might do next. Fortunately for us, what they have begun doing next is working on a debut full-length, which we are told will continue the subject matter of Ritus, “drawing inspiration from Greek, Egyptian, Roman and Indian mythology, literature (e.g. Dürrenmatt) and ancient history”.
“Bestiae sumus. And the hunted become hunters”.
We’re also informed that although Bestialis has played no shows up to now, they are preparing to perform live on stage when that becomes possible again.
Vendetta will release Ritus digitally and on 12″ vinyl, with screen printed artwork and screen printed B-side. All visual art was created by Lastaurus’ Logo/Artwork Design.