Lurker of Chalice

Lurker of Chalice

Lurker of Chalice

Lurker of Chalice

Southern Lord

The initial release of Lurker of Chalice in 2005 was an extremely limited run (of 777 copies) and sold out in seemingly seconds flat, leaving the rest of us high and dry until now. Reissue heav… err, hell. To the uninitiated, this looks like just another black metal album, albeit one with perhaps the most impenetrable logo of all time, but there is nothing “just another” about this album. This is an astonishing statement of musical freedom courtesy of Leviathan’s Wrest, already no stranger to following his own path with single-minded intent in Leviathan, which pretty much refined the solo black metal template to a fine, poisoned point here in the United States. But Lurker (which may or may not now be his sole focus, it’s muddy), is a completely different creature, wilder and more unpredictable, with a palpable tang of sadness, and the feeling similar to being outside without a coat after an autumn rainstorm. Lurker of Chalice samples from the same wells as Portishead and Godspeed! You Black Emperor as much as from the likes of Burzum and Bathory.

The album opens with an “Untitled” instrumental, a portentous, dread flourish of war drums and electronics. Segueing gently into the opening minutes of “Piercing Where They Might,” crows cawing and taking flight over a slight guitar/keyboard minuet, before erupting into a dread barrier of blackened powerdoom, with guitars like a galeforce wind, prodded along by blasts of drumming and Wrest’s tormented vocals — sounding more like Lord of the Ring’s Sauron and then a dying old man on the placid coda. The album really starts to fucking cook wtih “Spectre a Valkyrie is,” beginning with the subtle tell of windchimes in the breeze, then a slight thrash-guitar flourish before plunging headfirst into a pitch-dark mere of broken ambience and Wrest’s heavily-echoed mutters and incantations and almost trip-hop drumming (a polluted groove) that slowly crests and ebbs.

“Minions” is tarpit slow ethereal doom — a continuous echo of the central torturous riff and synths that ping back and forth off cave walls. And THEN it hits this crazy Twin Peaks goblin noir swing with heavily reverbed guitar twangs before distorted bass and loping drums accompany Wrest’s whispering in your ears all manner of very bad things as the song builds to an epic pinnacle of ugly sadness, like some sort of black metal Joy Division. And from there “Paramnesia” starts to mine this brutally effective dark funk vibe, with downtuned bass strings ringing thuggishly over hip-hop style drums, creating a claustrophobic atmosphere like black smoke in an orange room.

“This Blood Falls As Mortal Part III” is like something Portishead would be playing now; a sonic landscape of nervous dread all slow-burning textures and scorched atmospherics — ten minutes of tension that slowly builds, all deceptively quiet and almost beautiful, and then bursts into discordant flame with rhythmic waves like the buzzing of angry wasps, from there bubbling down into a dark, deep bass-led S&M New Order groove. Often Wrest’s vocals are so heavily treated and reverbed that they sound like the devil was promised to sound, if you hadn’t been too scared to play your heavy metal records backwards as a teenager. Case in point: “Granite.” Burbling, ambient haunted house electronic body-music along the lines of later NON. Carefully constructed melancholy noise that exists only to unsettle.

“Fastened to the Five Points” is another stylistic switch, delving into the endtimes European death-folk of Death in June and Sol Invictus, as well as the lush theatrics and atmospherics of Dead Can Dance, with clean guitars chiming and accusatory vocals echoing in some timelost void. “Wall” is grinding pained harmonic/gothic doom/grind that sounds like lightning crackling through a hall full of oil lamps, and doesn’t even have the life left to say, “I’m ending it all.” Like a bunch of suicidal Romantic poets (Byron, Keats you know the drill) playing the back catalog of Grief, and if that’s not an intriguing proposition…. I’ve got a whole album of intriguing propositions for ya.

Southern Lord: www.southernlord.com

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