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In Charnel Lights

Svart (2015)
Rating: 8.5/10

Rising from the ashes of Discard comes Finnish combo Cult Of Endtime, and this is their first full-length offering. The quintet consists of vocalist Heikki Miettinen, axemen Janne Roiha and Ohto Jaatinen, bassist Mikko Kytösaho, and drummer Sami Ratilainen.

Musically, it’s an arrogant slab of doom-laden death metal which grows on the listener like a layer of silt gained from too many murky nights wading in the local swamp. After a few spins by candlelight, I’m pleased to say that this is a band worth keeping an eye on, because they really do offer up some gargantuan sounding extreme metal.

Throughout, there’s a scornful mix of blistering speed, crushing sludgy doom and very heavy, mocking death metal vibrations channelled through those watery gurgles which at times have a tendency to drift into grindcore squeals, but thankfully not too much. For the most part, this eight-track affair has a really dark, melancholic repugnance which chimes out through those dank guitar tones and yet which is soon shaken off by the unpredictable blasts of speed.

In Charnel Lights is a very perverse beast offering a variety of layers. First and foremost, we have the cavernous odours of ‘A Vast Cosmic Horror’ which begins as a pulverising blast of twisted riffage and lumbering percussion, and yet the track soon becomes a mid-tempo trudge of squalid vocal burps and churning nods. There’s a lingering feeling of despair and the ominous about this wretched song; it almost labours like some blubbering behemoth about to swallow a town – the guitars have a melancholic traipse and the vocals remain channelled via a tongue tarred in algae. However, just as you think you’re going to drown in the abysmal quicksand drone served up by these magicians, they suddenly throw in a piece of unkempt speed before quickly sucking you back into their dirty hole.

‘Cairns On Mercury’ follows, but this time we have a true old school speed fest on our hands which then suddenly flips back to a mid-tempo watery trudge. The band’s ability to shift between tempos is excellent; this time, there’s a catchy, almost Swedish grate to proceedings – the combo clearly acknowledging the Scandinavian roots of the death metal scene as more melancholic meanderings pierce the suffocating silt spewed up by the murky guitar sound. However, although ‘Cairns On Mercury’ is a fine track, the band seem more comfortable as a much slower and dank death metal force rather than one paying homage to that early 90s buzzing racket.

For me, modern death metal is all too glossy. The way forward seems to be for bands to coat their sound in an earthy production, and there is certainly enough darkness on view here to suggest this band has the ability to take the genre by the scruff of the neck. This is evident as ‘Cairns On Mercury’ reaches just over the three-minute stage, and becomes a truly remarkable and miserable slab of doom-drenched death metal.

The fuzzed up despondency continues with the gargantuan malice of ‘Prognatus De Sigillum’, where the vocals become more of a booming, scornful narration over a dirty bass – the track eventually gathering pace to become a hideous avalanche of gloom. And this is pretty much the order of the day here for Cult Of Endtime; from the dragging horrors of ‘The Colossus Fell’ with its heaving drum clog and those horrifying vocal squelches to the equally morose ‘Gnostic Haeresis’ through to the closing ‘Discourse With The Dead’ – another eerie conjuration of dark, doom-laced forces.

Oddly, there’s something British about the griminess of this platter; I’m reminded at times of a marrying of My Dying Bride and Grave Miasma, such is the sepulchral intensity. Then again though, there’s also that mocking know towards the very early 90s underground scene when cassettes were passed around between grubby hands. In Charnel Lights is a slobbering death metal record reeking of old school values and brim-full of sneering arrogance and evil, just as it should be.

Neil Arnold

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