With the exception of the sort of person who obsessively stockpiles toilet paper at the first whiff of a potential crisis, it’s easy to appreciate why black metal inspires in its followers such fervent extremes of fandom and fixation. For those most newly initiated, there’s the rich, blood-drenched mythos that surrounds it like the darkest of unearthly ceremonial robes; its legacy of bloodshed and betrayal, of church burnings and moonlit rites and diabolical dedications to the god below. Then there’s the deliciously dark, putrefying meat of the material itself – all ragged, frostbitten angles and visceral textures carved in bone-chilling accents of eternal winter.
But then, every so often comes a unique entity that demands we dig a fraction deeper, with a sound potent and all-consuming enough to almost physically drown in. And with their joyously brutalising, ink-black identity now fiercely cemented with mesmerising new opus ‘Užribis’, Baltic black metal visionaries Luctus are one such tantalisingly absorbing proposition. This is not to suggest, of course, that this blackly immersive body of work cannot be enjoyed at an altogether more casual, surface level of appreciation. Far from it. Indeed, there’s more than enough deliciously visceral carnage on which to sate more simple-minded, traditionalist appetites.
Take, for instance, the madly accelerating blasts and frigidly abrasive rasps of tremolo that erupt, with violently explosive intent, out of the deathly stirrings of tensely cinematic opener ‘Gilyn’. Through dizzying feats of relentlessly battering blasts and crippling slabs of churning groove that expertly bludgeon the senses into submission, ‘Susiurpintas Ano Pasaulio nuostabos’ makes for a violently commanding statement of intent. Manipulating these crushingly brutal trappings with a calculating knack for pacing and precision that elevates these pulverising dynamics to the stuff of diabolical majesty, dense and intricately tangled strains of tremolo infiltrate the mix with rich, coldly insidious atmospherics. Progressing this blackly entrancing compositional alchemy still further, masterful title track ‘Užribis’ effortlessly blends a multitude of varying musical dynamics, its bracing feats of ravaging, old school aggression seamlessly unfurling into a pitch-black plethora of ghoulishly elongated guitar work. Elsewhere, sinister standout ‘Tikejimo paslaptis’ is crammed fit to bursting with deliriously aggressive energies, its coldly reverberating lines of tremolo bristling like a nest of agitated hornets as acerbic-throated frontman Kommander L. snarls and growls like the proverbial man possessed, his vocal cords palpably thick with grave-scented pestilence and hate.
From its frenzied, frequently explosive extremes of energy to a pleasingly visceral old school aesthetic, ‘Užribis’ is, in one respect, as quintessential and classic a specimen of the genre as one could imagine. And yet, the nightmarish vision and calculating intelligence with which these genre-defining trappings is handled creates something far greater than the sum of these respective parts. Something that cries out in the blackest depths of moonless night, awakening in us the very darkest of diabolical energies and impulses, impelling us, deeper and deeper into its lethal, coldly magnetic embrace.
‘Užribis’ is out 4th April 2020 on Inferna Profundus