Monday, July 11, 2016

Terra Tenebrosa - The Reverses [2016]

There is something distinctly unnerving about Terra Tenebrosa even as you glance at their various cover arts. Slanting, oblique figures in masks that look like they were stolen from a hellish carnival around the whereabouts of Chernobyl, set against a grainy, black-and-white bucolic landscape as though something out of a modern indie horror movie. But even the cover of their albums - among which their third, The Reverses, I find the most visually frightening - does not begin to encompass the integument of the aural and parasitic trance which these Swedish obscures have no offer, a kind of digestible, if not lacking experimentation, configuration of grating, otherworldly senses which seems to liaise between highly industrialized, bogged down venture, and a more cohesive palette of instrumentation akin to Deathspell Omega, Samael, Neurosis at their most unhinged, Blut Aus Nord, Red Harvest, and the Dutch hopefuls Dodecahedron. While most of the time I'm accustomed to slab the label 'unusual' or 'strange' onto bands, the classification does not help much here. In fact, the only way to rectify the crawling insanity of such a band as Terra Teneborsa should require a deep dissection of the band's style and music.

How exactly to go about this? The Swedes are frightening, theatrical, capricious and dissonant. Predictability is completely out of question, with the band employing such a rich mixture of dense, broiling industrial guitars, cavernous murmurs intermingling with chants, and the production value is simply off the chain, pummeling and bombastic, it's oddly yet titillatingly loud which gives the parasitical quality of the riffs a great deal of punch and energy. Truly, production is at the helm of the sheer momentum of this music. Had the band opted for a grainier, lo-fi production the aural experience, while no less unnerving, might have come off as underwhelming and appropriately downsized, but the magnitude of sound here enhances the claustrophobia and atmosphere, much like the Swiss Samael, especially after their 1996 masterpiece, Passage, only instead of the cosmic, ethereal aura they manifest so endearingly, the Swedes meticulously fabricate the auditory equivalent of a industrial nightmare doll-house, with charred pieces of plastic and piled masses of doll's heads lying about. Ambient sounds textures and multitudes of creeping voices fill in the almost mindless discomfiture they strew in between tracks or passages, and these as freakish and harrowing as a lengthy shot from a Tarkovsky or Kubric opus, dragging in the listener for several minutes with terrible anticipation until a load of jagged, heavyweight riffs are unburdened.

This is very noticeable with the final, overarching megalith, ''Fire Dances'', some 16 minutes long, which not only has a terrific set of crushing, grooving riffs but a totally immersive center section with long, drudging currents of sound and discord enveloping the listener with minutes at an end. But besides the band's obvious stylistic merit in cultivating such shadowy, implosive chaos, I was surprised at how many of these songs which I felt like coming back to, even with actually memorable riffs and sections I could pick out across the board. ''Ghost at the End of the Rope'' is like a titular, cadaverous Leviathan track, with one guitar chugging out huge rhythms and the other plodding at a terse, repetitive melody; the band's mastery at experimental black metal is apparent from the unusual timing and signatures, the explosive drums and the few, narrow moments of pureblood Scandinavian dynamics which they employ, making for a delicious kind of escape for the bedraggled black metal outlaw. ''The End is Mine to Ride'', with its more traditional structural approach and mid-paced gait, is also very good. Intensity is never a problem for Terra Tenebrosa when they are so apt at picking paces and tempos apart, diverging and converging into varying structures and patterns, which they equally reveal on ''Exuvia'', a forlorn industrial metal piece utilizes a single riff for its entirety, building upon the soundscape around it. Granted, there is some repetition with the riffs but overall the sound sustains itself and the album never yields to musical equanimity, which means I was rarely disinterested throughout. The Swedes have not quite deracinated black metal as others, like, say, Arcturus or Sigh, have. Instead, black metal remains an element of the recipe which in itself is, beyond just 'unusual', mortifying and creepy as fuck. Tribal and nightmare-inducing, this is the kind of album you definitely don't want to give a spin at 2-3 in the morning, not in the least if you're living in a wooden cabin, with the closest scrap of civilization being a petrol station located 20 km away. You've been warned.

Where Shadows Have Teeth
Ghost at the End of the Rope
Fire Dances

Rating: 80%

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