(Here we have Andy Synn‘s review of the debut album by the multinational avant-garde black metal band Thermohaline, which had its surprise Bandcamp release today.)
Give us a choice between covering a big-name band or a relative unknown and we’ll plump for the latter 99 times out of 100.
That’s just the way we roll, and the way it’s always been.
Granted, we’re not against covering bigger, more well-known acts, particularly if/when we think we’ve got an interesting or unique take to offer, but for the most part our efforts are best focussed on the underdogs, the underrated, and the under-exposed… bands like blackened, avant-garde genre-blenders Thermohaline.
Delivering six tracks of what the band themselves refer to as “pure nautical dementia”, Maelström is the sort of album that should appeal to anyone who counts themselves a fan of similarly cinematic bands like …And Oceans, Dødheimsgard, and Khonsu (the latter especially)… bands who are dedicated to reworking and reshaping the basic blueprint of Black Metal, without ripping it up entirely.
Opener “Obra Dinn” is a prime example, and a perfect introduction, to the band’s particular brand of progressive blackened avant-artistry, beginning with a scene-setting passage of moody guitars, rolling drums, and outlandish instrumental embellishments, before erupting in a torrent of blistering blasts and scalding vocals, which in turn moves through multiple movements of massive, metallic riffs, intricate percussive rhythms, and sombre, synth-tinged ambience.
It’s an epic journey, all packed into just over seven minutes, whose sheer intensity and creative verve makes it seem to pass by in the blink of an eye.
The rest of the album which follows only expands upon this thrillingly unpredictable formula, from the titanic Blackened Cyber-Death of “Adamastor”, which carries traces of both Mysticum and Samael in its DNA, yet is both darker and more sinisterly melodic than either, to the eight-minute ebb and flow of brooding and bludgeoning that is “Sirens”, the shamelessly extravagant extremity of “Shipwrecked”, and the intricately interwoven threads of visceral intensity and dazzling melody which make up captivating closer “Paardenmarkt”.
And while there is, perhaps, still some room for the band to further evolve and polish their delivery – the almost unrelenting punishment of “Dark Corners of the Ocean”, for example, would be even more powerful, and more interesting, with the addition of a real drummer, although it would have to be someone with a lot of skill and stamina to keep up such an unforgiving pace – there’s no denying that Maelström is a phenomenal first effort from a band who clearly have no intention of playing by anyone else’s rules!