If early Norwegian black metal is the embodiment of the anti-Christ, all hail the second coming - except this time followers of all that is unholy should look for the arch-fiend’s rebirth beyond the border.
Formed in 2011 and occupying the murkiest realms of the genre, Swedish black metal group Perverticon make for an intensely compelling package, not least in eschewing the more traditional death metal route of their country-folk. Taking as their muse rogue tyrants of the genre Mayhem, Darkthrone and other miscreants, Perverticon have crafted a vividly realised homage to the exquisite excesses of the second wave, harkening back thematically to the heady roots of a deliciously controversial ’90s movement mired in murder, madness and desecration. Latest album ‘Wounds of Divinity’ is a nine-track gem that resurrects this polluting influence with precision. Like its earlier predecessor ‘Extinguishing the Flame of Life’, this is black metal in its purest form, with cascading riffage evocative of harsh Scandinavian landscapes, vocals that whip to the bone like the bitterest of winter winds and doom-filled progressions that feel like being slowly turned to ice.
Despite their technical genius however, Perverticon are cloaked in obscene mystery. Since the heady, publicity-seeking days of early notoriety, black metal has become a resolutely underground cult, unwilling to be coaxed into the light, yet whose insidious roots have snaked out to infect every area of alternative subculture. Perverticon have embraced this philosophy wholeheartedly, taking a suitably perverse pleasure out of being deliberately elusive and yet leaving indelible inky marks. Although fans and critics alike who have stumbled upon them have swooned in their sullied tracks, a quick internet research reveals little about the band, the lyrics and song titles are tauntingly enigmatic (although this is nothing unusual in black metal) and furthermore, the members’ identities are shrouded in the secrecy of their stage names. Necrosadistic Elite and Uncleanest Invictus are on guitar and bass, with vocals from Omnicremationist Supreme, and in performance they further mask their identity with ghastly pig masks and thick layers of caked-on corpse paint that actively invites abhorrence.
And yet, listeners can’t help but be drawn in to their murky realms and they are most definitely worth the particular trouble of seeking out. The first track of their new album, ‘Thirsting for Ruin’, starts at an indolent pace, letting the creeping eeriness gather with an indistinct, barely perceptible backdrop of lost, tortured voices, before feral, bruising vocals and dissonant drums kick in, blackening to mournful melodies that seem plucked from the darkest corners of the sickest minds. With its frozen expanses of bleak sound and reverberating, glacier-deep vocals, ‘An Absence of All but Ashes’ is perhaps the most eerily reminiscent of black metal at its most fundamental resonant, with the raw, bone-chilling atmospherics of greats such as Emperor and Gorgoroth handled so deftly they send icy, bliss-filled shivers of recollection down the spine.
‘Cold Embrace of Sanctity’ is tinged with real-world insanities, as some high-pitched whining voices crowd in, evoking the scrabbling, desperate rabble of media broadcasts. ‘The Cease of Absolution’ adds some more stark realities with rock-heavy guitars until ‘Breath of Sulphur/Aura of Flies’ takes the listener back to the realms of the imagination, to a place of cold, decaying majesty where the distorted, quivering tremolo feels like a million buzzing, blood-sucking insects gathering on a rotting corpse. ‘Holy gifts from Skinless Hands’ closes the album in a wash of glorious blasphemous mockery, a grim reminder of worldly delusions. A liturgical choir is disrupted by inhuman, wolf-like cries, before leaden chords fall heavy as final judgements on damned souls and whipped-up whirlpools of furious dissonance come crashing down in a claustrophobic, godless delirium. This final track closes with the same slithering slowness that opened the album, leaving listeners yearning to sell their souls for just one more excruciating lingering riff, shriek or chord.
With their latest composition, Perverticon have successfully rekindled the darkly-intentioned, frost-infused devilry of those early black metal deviants, but if they really want to rise above merely mirroring their idols and forge more of a presence on the scene, they might look to genre-evolving masters Watain or latter-day Immortal. Yet perhaps these Swedish craftsmen of darkness wish to remain where they are, fading back into the shadows after each furious burst of impeccable imitation, firmly ensconced in their echo chamber of horrors.
'Wounds of Divinity' is out now on Iron Bonehead Productions