(Todd Manning returns to NCS with the following review of the new album by Seputus, which is out now on Willowtip Records.)
Originally the brainchild of drummer/guitarist Stephen Schwegler, Seputus has had to take a backseat to real life for far too long. The idea for the group started when he was serving in the Navy, but the growth was slow due to his commitments.
Eventually, Schwegler recruited vocalist Doug Moore and Erik Malave on bass and the project began to take flight. While they managed to release the album Man Does Not Give in 2016, Phantom Indigo, which came out on June 4th via Willowtip Records, feels like the true introduction of the trio to the Metal world at large.
One cannot be blamed if upon first listen this beast of an album passes like a blur. Phantom Indigo is an assault of musical information overload in the best possible way. Drums and guitars recklessly careen off one another in long-bursts of controlled chaos. Headphones, though, will reveal the fractured nuances. The first two riffs of album opener “The Will to Live” sound like being sucked through a hole in a spacecraft, falling forever in the infinite void of space. Dissonant riffs and bass lines spiral around asymmetrical drum beats to create a swirling maelstrom of sound. The intent here is disorientation first, sonic bludgeoning second. Or perhaps the brutality is due to the sensory overload of the music.
“The Learned Response” begins with a Metal take on Free Jazz and then begins to alternate between passages of furious density and more open, but still crushing, sections as if the song is breathing. Any attempt by a listener to sync their breath with the tune though will only result in hyperventilation. And speaking of a breather, the dissonant Doom of “The Forgetting Curve” is as close to a respite as this album offers. At under four minutes, this instrumental is by far the shortest piece on Phantom Indigo, and it is the most accessible, but certainly only by comparison. As the song progresses, the guitar begins to color more and more outside the lines while the bass provides the infinite gravity of a black hole.
As with most Death Metal groups who play material this dense and labyrinthine, one of the keys to success is Schwegler’s drumming. While certainly performing all the blast beats and double bass with the kind of skill required for this material, a closer listening will reveal that he also possesses an innate sense of swing, as if he is an old Jazz soul reincarnated as a Metal killing machine. Whenever the material opens up, he finds the perfect way to accent the down beats, providing structure to the chaos. While it is a stretch to call the material catchy, it is far from forgettable.
Seputus is not an easy listen, but for those willing to put the time in there are many rewards. Phantom Indigo provides a masterclass in dissonant and technical Death Metal, not too polished but not too cavernous, unrelenting but not without its own sense of dynamics. In the past, life seems to have gotten in the way of this being a more active group, but hopefully we won’t have to way too long for Seputus to give us more of the chaos they create so well.