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ViciSolum Productions (2014)
Rating: 9/10

Nefarious is the third studio album from these Swedish extreme metallers, and I have to admit it’s a grower. Full of dark, dank atmosphere, always clinical, tight and rarely nodding at the old school, it’s one of those sneering, brooding compositions that worms its way into the matter like a parasite that just gets stronger with every munch of membrane and tissue.

Upon first listen I was unimpressed by its coldness; maybe it was the grating guitar sound or the drum that seemed to click continuously in my shell-like ears, but as ‘Fiery Initiator’ finally worked its magic, I was introduced to a world of blackened death metal spearheaded by the vociferous outbursts of mainman Stefan Lundgren, who may be familiar to those of you who have experienced Mörk Gryning live. Others may also want me to point out that Sectu also features former members of Therion (bassist Johan Niemann – who also played with Tiamat – and Richard Evensand, who featured for Soilwork). Of course, Sectu sounds nothing like the other bands they are affiliated with.

The vocals are rough and throaty, the music extremely tight and above all concise – helped in part due to the excellent guitar work of Anders Ericson, who takes the sound of the band to new levels on the intricately scathing ‘Onset Of Destruction’ with its varying tempo shifts, jabbing drums and those gnarly vocal coughs.

Sectu are not extreme in the sense that they are brutally fast or sonically heavy. Instead, their assaults on the senses come via measured passages of really black death metal that is constructed of slower, spiky divisions that seem to exist within a template where every instrument is a clear, dominant entity and yet able to work of its own accord before rejoining its accomplices in sinister fashion. While crisp throughout, the album boasts some strange arrangements, giving the affair an unpredictable edge which is always good when dealing with a genre of music that has a tendency to become predictable in its ferocity.

‘Perpetual Spectre’ begins in ashen manner before the hammering riff is injected; the rhythm jars the soul until the melodic strains of arrogance seethe through the darkness.

In a sense Sectu provide the sort of twisted arrangements that have a tendency to strangulate the listener, such are the barbaric yet chaotically controlled aesthetics. ‘Tenebrous’, with its perverse riffage, and ‘Convergence’, complete with malformed grooves, are striking and hurtful at once. Moments of rawness and sparseness are fused with some truly devastating outbursts of speed, nowhere more apparent than on ‘River Of Oblivion’ with its psychotic tendencies and pulverising acts of the articulate. Somehow as each track drowns the listener like a slick black liquid, Nefarious becomes more and more eloquent, cleverly assembled and methodically malevolent without being messy or garrulous.

These guys have created a big-headed album that betters 2011’s Inundate debut and its follow-up, 2012’s Gerra, by a country mile. With that, it’s time for another spin in the hope that by the time I reach the closing rack ‘The Wanderer’ I’m not the scarred wreck of before. Definitely one of the best albums of 2014, Nefarious is a lesson in technical despicability.

Neil Arnold

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