Vallis Ex Umbra De Mortuus
Stalwart and perpetually extreme and ugly in the same way that fellow New Yorkers Incantation and Mortician are, doom mongers Rigor Sardonicus clearly ignore and disregard any “groove” that the likes of Black Sabbath and Saint Vitus and Pentagram may have plied. Instead they plumb the deepest depths, stomach-churning subsonic grind that the likes of Disembowlment, Asphyx, and Khanate reveled in. Crudely slashed wrists stain a white bathtub, an overturned bottle of pills garishly decorates a cold tile floor with tiny splashes of color, an oppressive night abruptly ends.
Vocals are along the lines of Carcass’s Bill Steer (but slower and deeper, if even possible) and Napalm Death’s Nic Bullen but with enunciations slowed down and slackened to the nth degree — the vocals are not spit out, a la grindcore, but drool out, slowly and torturously sinking and settling in like a bad chest cold. (And the band take pains to point out that the vocals are done live without any tape-speed assistance. I believe’em. Result!) The guitars sound like the cracking of a whip or a downed power line crackling and snapping menacingly on a deserted street. Downtuned to the point of electrical interference. (Very nice.) The riffs are blood simple and repeated into numbness, where the chords start to lose individual structure and dissolve into a black pool. The rhythm section don’t really pound out any recognizable time signatures, near as I can tell, instead approximating the slow decay and rumbling collapse of a once stately antebellum mansion.
Opener “Marie de Maeroris” echoes the opening track on Cathedral’s Forest of Equilibrium or some of the more mysterious and folky work on SOL’s latest album, with the mordant wheeze of a medieval flute as the lone accompaniment to vocalist’s seemingly dying lament — in a voice that sounds like dead leaves rustling down an empty street. And from that benediction, it’s off to the races with seven more tracks of shuddering, heaving, unforgiving crawl and rend. Lacking choruses, solos, or indeed any sop to the unfamiliar listener’s ears, Vallis… is destined to be rough, depressive going. But that’s the fucking point! Sometimes music has to be ugly because you’re feeling fucking ugly and beaten down. Sometimes life drags and boredom and sickness just overwhelm you and you don’t even have the energy to punch a wall anymore. This is the soundtrack! Hell, at times Rigor Sardonicus’s music feels more like ambient music than anything approaching popular songcraft.
Pig-ugly, primitive mono-chord-matic death throes revealing that the true state of man, as it always was, is that of Sisyphus eternally thwarted.
Paragon Records: www.paragonrecords.net