Back when the British Isles still abounded with the electrifying, brutally energised vibrations of a million wondrously hell-raising live metal acts, it never once occurred to us that it would all come crashing down one fateful day in the spring of 2020. And, worse still, with no foreseeable end to this curious purgatorial limbo in which we’re presently left dangling. But however irrevocably altered our current circumstances might be nowadays, the memory of the staggeringly epic live entity that is UK black metal mob The Infernal Sea is one that’s unlikely to be fading from our recollection any time soon. And having recently crafted an album whose every murkily cacophonous shriek and thornily abrasive lashing of tremolo audibly crackles with adrenaline, deliciously corrosive third opus ‘Negotium Crucis’ does a pretty damn good job of emulating, as far as sonically possible, this most uncompromisingly visceral and intense of musical experiences.
In fact, it’s hard to imagine a formula more perfectly engineered for deeply disquieting listening, with brutalising opener ‘Destruction of Shum’s’ turbulent central expanse of gnarly, Darkthrone-tinged riffage being richly abundant in abrasive carnage. Together with raggedly caustic flurries of tremolo that lacerate the senses above tar-thick layerings of riffage that twist and contort like a nest of agitated vipers, theirs is a sound positively drowning in aggression. With these classically frostbitten elements having been handled with a decidedly raw and rough-hewn production value that displays audible reverence for the lo-fi aesthetics of their iconic Nordic predecessors, ‘Negotium Crucis’ is, from the get-go, pleasingly awash with nostalgia. But if the first few tracks of this deceptively inventive opus convinced you this was just another misty-eyed homage to the old gods of the genre, you’ll very quickly come to revise that over-hasty snap judgement by the time ‘Field of the Burned’ ignites in a nerve-shredding cacophony of screams and gorgeously cascading riffage.
Make no mistake though, this is by no means an attempt to discredit the many adrenaline-fuelled pleasures of the earlier portion of the album, but to note instead that it is precisely here that we witness the full scope of The Infernal Sea’s compositional talents unravel before us in all their ghoulish and blackly immersive glory – as musicians gifted with the capacity to ravage the senses and curdle the blood in equal, darkly intoxicating measure. Here, where there’s a hauntingly melancholic glimmer or two of Ghostbath (perhaps even early Alcest) stirring in the anguished cries and grandly unfurling lines of progressive fretwork that find seamless placement in amongst the track’s aggressive elements. Elsewhere, ‘Unholy Crusade’ bursts forth in a pitch-black profusion of tremolo-stricken ultra-violence, its icily acerbic textures glimmering with wintry majesty, while ‘Rex Mundi’s’ deathly melodic trappings imbue its aggressive dynamics with cadaverously cold and suspenseful atmospherics. With these thoroughly nightmarish energies finding their inspirational origins in the historic yet suddenly frighteningly relevant horrors of the Black Death of 1346, electrifying standout ‘Devoid of Fear’ is exceptionally rich with apocalyptic menace. Interspersing monstrous percussive blasts and scalding implosions of tremolo in amongst finely sculpted lines of snaking, tautly muscled riffage that audibly drips ink-black malice, this is an unforgivingly savage and, at times, utterly ghoulish Pandora’s box of atrocities just waiting to be cracked open and unleashed upon the world.
'Negotium Crucis' is out now via Apocalyptic Witchcraft