With their forthcoming sixth album, Revenant, the formidable and fearsome Australian black metal band Pestilential Shadows immerse themselves in death, while imagining an end that brings no rest. Inspired by the riddle “What is dead that doesn’t die?, “the album offers many sonic/spiritual pathways of death, decay, pestilence, and putrefaction” (so says the PR material accompanying the album, and the music leaves no doubt about its truth), but the album’s title signifies that in the band’s conception, what may follow the swinging scythe of the grim reaper are horrors unbounded.
In other words, the darkness in the new album is pitch-black, and shrouded by the supernatural. But what founding vocalist/guitarist Balam and his bandmates have achieved on Revenant goes beyond sensations of bodily degradation and mental terror. The music is even more powerfully haunting because it so powerfully resonates with the core of what it means to be human — the curse of knowing life and knowing that it won’t last, with all the dread, the fear, and the sorrow that can come with that knowledge.
For example, the song we’re premiering today, “Twilight Congregation“, might be experienced as a channeling of the awful gloom and anger of a soul brought back from the grave to dwell in an endless afterlife of torment. But to the ears of this writer, it can also be received as a manifestation of the kind of shattering heartbreak we have all known or will know.
The steady reverberating pop of the snare sets a stately cadence, and the rise and fall of the chords create a grim and grief-stricken mood, whose feeling of desolation is magnified by the scarring passion of the vocals. The music intensifies as the drums begin racing and as the riffing submerges the listener in searing waves of anguish. The intensity is almost overpowering, particularly when matched by Balam’s wrenching cries.
There’s no real relief from despondency and despair when the hurtling momentum dissipates, because the panoply of surrounding sounds seem to moan and scream. But nothing yet will really prepare you for the sudden explosion of soul-splintering madness that follows that subdued and sombre interlude. The drums spit bullets; the vocals are again frighteningly tormented; and the layered tremolo guitars pierce like a ravishing blizzard of spears, straight to the heart.
In addition to this song, another one has already been revealed from Revenant, and you’ll find it below. “Hunter & Reaper” is intensely dramatic. It proceeds like a dire march, bleak yet defiant. The fiery, flickering leads, vibrant bass, and unhinged howls contrast with the grim and grinding riffage and the cold, stalking cadence. It’s segmented by the magical, ancient-sounding glimmer of zither-like melody, and that becomes the prelude to burning ferocity. The beat is still measured, but the music soars in a way that consumes the senses in glorious but dangerous fire. The press materials refer to Revenant’s music as a display of “regal-yet-gritty grandeur”, and that certainly rings true when you hear this song.
The album’s haunting cover artwork was especially commissioned and predominantly created by Greallach with additional artworks by Balam, and it intertwines with the album’s lyrics to illustrate imposing landscapes and scenes of pestilential horror from each of the songs.
Revenant will be released on September 3rd by Seance Records on CD, vinyl LP, and cassette tape formats. Further info can be found via the links below.