Recommended for fans of: Akercocke, Imperial Triumphant, Abyssal
With another month having now come and gone it is – inevitably – time for another edition of The Synn Report.
And with Baltimore-based blast-beatniks Genevieve having just dropped their long-awaited new album last week… well, there was simply no question that this month was going to be all about them and their ambitious brand of unpredictable, avant-garde extremity.
2015 – ESCAPISM
The group’s debut album is, arguably, their most “orthodox” sounding release, sitting as it does at a nexus point between Black Metal and Death Metal without, somehow, falling into the tried and true tricks and tropes of “Blackened Death Metal”.
But that’s really only a relative term, as once the unsettling instrumental intro of “Parasite I” gives way to the churning whirl ‘n’ burl of “Charnel Flow” – just under five minutes of abrasive, oscillating riffs and twitchy, tendon-popping bass, all topped off with a cavalcade of visceral, caustic vocals – you’ll begin to see and understand just how unorthodox the band’s use of rhythm and structure actually is.
This oddness – ever-present, but hard to put your finger on – is equally on display during both the melody-mangling, somewhat Krallice-esque strains of “Memory” and the lurching, loathsome “Ego” (whose blend of claustrophobic density and eerie, anxiety-inducing ambience gives it an Altarage-ish quality), with only the unexpectedly sombre instrumental title-track to break up the album’s madcap momentum thus far.
And it’s this momentum which then carries you through the record’s final strait, moving from the dissonant chaos and downright upsetting atmospherics of the aptly-named “Bizarre” to the discordantly dynamic push-and-pull between contorted guitars and corrosive anti-melodies which characterises “Fell”, before ultimately climaxing with the spine-tingling soundscape(s) of “Parasite II”.
It’s a strange album, make no mistake about it. But its an album whose strangeness is only enhanced by the fact that so much of it appears like a twisted, carnival-mirror distortion of things which should be familiar but which instead seems all the stranger as a result.
2017 – REGRESSIONISM
On their second album Genevieve evolved into an darker, even heavier (switching to an even bigger, more down-tuned guitar sound), and even weirder form, beginning with the sinister, almost Triptykon-esque slow-burn of “Smoke”, whose haunting vocals and brooding melodies eventually give way to a doom-laden second half of pounding, pulsating rhythms and anguished, harrowing howls.
This in turn gives way to the warped, winding tremolo and gargantuan, gut-churning guitars of “The Judge”, which takes full advantage of every second of its nearly nine-and-a-half minute run-time to strip, scrape, and strangle your every last nerve with its constantly mutating mix of cavernous Death Metal horror, disturbingly off-kilter atmospherics, and bone-jarring bursts of blackened belligerence whose sheer intensity and dizzying unpredictability would surely give even the likes of Imperial Triumphant a run for their money.
After such a such a disturbing trip – and “trip” is certainly the right word to use, in several contexts – into the depths of the band’s damaged, distorted psyche, it makes sense that “Wind Chimes” would then offer us a a few moments (or minutes) of relative piece in which to collect ourselves, before the titanic, blast-driven Avant-Blackened Death-Doom (patent pending) of “No For An Answer” unleashes the album’s latest, and arguably most intense, assault upon the senses.
For all its suffocating density and flesh-ripping intensity, however, “No For An Answer” still holds its fair share of surprises (including some fluid, filthy bass work and a brilliantly cathartic, climactic juxtaposition of despairing clean vocals and destructive metallic fury), although it’s the album’s penultimate track, the almost eleven minute monstrosity which goes by the name of “William Blake” which will no doubt keep you on your toes the most as it twists and writhes between passages of stomping Death Metal and juddering Disso-Doom, scorching Blackened Death and sublimely soothing Prog, all culminating in one final eruption of ugly, almost inhuman, sound and fury.
But the band aren’t quite done with you yet, and it’s with the savage sonic rollercoaster of “Regression Schism” that they choose to end things, in a way that should – if this album has done its job – leave you a little scarred, a little scared, but still hungry for more.
2023 – AKRATIC PARASITISM
While the band’s line-up may have changed a little on their latest album, their core ethos and desire to keep pushing the boundaries of audio extremity – without abandoning their roots in the Black/Death Metal scene(s) – definitely hasn’t, as becomes immediately apparent during the disturbingly addictive, Voices-adjacent “Growth”.
The group’s new and improved sound (not so much “polished” as it is “refined” to an even more lethal edge which allows it to slip between your ribs even more smoothly) is then on full display during “Crushed” – the heavy parts are harsher and heavier, the ambient sections richer and darker, and the unpredictably avant-garde twists even stranger – whose extravagant, experimental nine-and-a-half minute run-time often recalls the dynamic, genre-defying approach of Dodecahedron (RIP).
Shades of Oranssi Pazuzu then perfuse both the slithering, snarling, sub-three-minute “Severed Ego Head” and the more moody, morbidly atmospheric strains of “Crisis”, with the latter in particular demonstrating that Genevieve have lost none of their willingness, or ability, to choose the more unusual and unpredictable path.
But while the group may have added a few more strange shades and creepy colours to their creative palette this time around, they are still painting with the same distinctive style, which is why the blackened brush-strokes and sinister use of negative-space in “Ever Ebb” still retain their ability to captivate and challenge the listener in spite of the passing of the years.
An, speaking of challenging… with the eleven-and-a-half minute odyssey of “Harrowing Halls of their Infernal Hubris” (which comes after the aptly-named instrumental “Respite”) the band push their latest album even further out towards the boundaries, with the resultant merging of delirium-inducing discordance and senses-warping psychedelia – interspersed with eruptions of violent extremity and moments of bizarre beauty – straddling the all-too-thin line separating genius from madness.
After this it’s then down to the uncanny “Quandary Is Flesh” and its Code-esque combination of proggy melodic instrumentation and weirdly arresting vocals to ease you into the resultant come-down, as while Akratic Parasitism is no doubt a mind-expanding thrill-ride, it’s also one which demands a lot from you, both physically and mentally, in return, and thus should not be taken lightly!