Taphos – Come Ethereal Somberness (2018) REVIEW

In Homer’s Odyssey the Τάφιοι were a pirate-like, slave trading scourge of the Ionian sea. Euripides would later posit the seemingly mythical, debaucherous islands of Taphos as a collective description of the Echinades but today most agree Homer was referring to the beautiful (and more likely inhabited) island of Meganisi. Self-proclaimed descendants of Perseus through Taphius, the son of Poseidon and Hippothoë, the Taphians were written as savage warriors, opportunists, and their king a scheming tyrant. Myths of ruthless island warrior kings ordering slaughter of rival suitors, to gain position over Ithaca, set a reasonably appropriate tone for the furious blackened death metal of Danish death metal band Taphos‘ debut full-length ‘Come Ethereal Somberness’.

Formed between members/ex-members of Reverie, Alucarda and Sulphurous the project’s original sound was primarily influenced by the thrash-maddened obscurities of American and Finnish old school death metal. Less dramatic and melodious than Venenum, less frantically delivered than bands like Vorum and Verminous, Taphos‘ sound developed towards greater black metal influence with the release of their ‘Premonition’ EP in 2017. In fact those three tracks were taken directly from ‘Come Ethereal Somberness’ and did more than hint at the fiery blackened death metal attack of the album. I always hear massive influence from ‘The Nocturnal Silence’ on records like this but this time the attack of the record only halfway warrants the mention as much as contemporary artists. Riffs aplenty cake the innards of Taphos‘ debut with the war-like abandon of Degial, the inventive structures of Necrovation and an impressive uptick in black metal ‘attack’ that brings an incredible sense of modern atmospherics and ‘flow’ to the full listen without overshadowing their old school death metal aspect.

‘Come Ethereal Darkness’ is a generational mutant of many classic death metal influences and in attempting to describe it I felt some small amount of frustration with it’s amorphous nature. The adherence to senectuous ways transitions between the supportive catafalque of tremolo-picking a la ‘Gardens of Grief’ era At the Gates, brief chunks of Morbid Angel‘s ‘Gateways to Annihilation’ and the angular reprieve of Immolation‘s debut. The greater swinging-from-the-rafters blackness blurring the experience provides effective differentiation from Taphos‘ influences. The result is, for the sake of approximation, death metal relevant to and refined beyond Necrovation‘s ‘Breed Deadness Blood’. For any number of comparisons I could struggle with, the guitar work doesn’t feel hugely derivative so much as it resembles a modern tapestry of death metal fashioned in new ways from old cloth.

With a greater idea of where Taphos sit in the spectrum of the ancients and how they’ve evolved there is no question of good taste in terms of execution and style. I appreciate the blasphemic sound, the subtle and dynamic production, the brutal mixture of atmospherics and classicism is entirely alluring and re-spinnable. Where I lose sight of ‘Come Ethereal Somberness’ is in preview and outside of the momentous flow of the experience. Taken in pieces it is remarkable in sound and style but not entirely memorable throughout. As a whole this is more of a void-like journey and not precisely the instant gratification of their demo era. Yet I still found myself not wanting to be done with the full listen because the dark aura provided by the black metal guitar work frequently transcends timeworn delivery. My favorite example of this is “Ocular Blackness”, which comes across like “Ageless, Still I Am” if reinterpreted by Watain or similar. Captivating throughout but not adherent to my echoic memory.

It is an album that surely proves that strong death metal riffs and blackened atmospherics can collide in a tasteful way. The experience surges with alternating gusts of intensity and tribute alike and the only point of exhaustion with repeated listening comes from the growling tremolo riffs that anchor the performances. This is absolutely normal for this style of death metal and is less a complaint and more a nod to what sounds ultimately define it’s overall statement. ‘Come Ethereal Somberness’ is a boiling, seething experience and not a pushy thug-load of thrashed out old school death metal. With a great wealth of death metal releases to see light in festival season this year I’d suggest Taphos‘ debut as a ‘grower’ that demands some consideration without an instant accessible connection. For preview “Impending Peril” is a strong introduction to gauge interest but I think most folks will be hooked by the time “Ocular Blackness” finishes.

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Artist Taphos
Type Album
Released June 8, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on Blood Harvest Records’ Bandcamp! Follow Taphos on Facebook
Genres
Death Metal

Blood of the hydra. 4.0/5.0

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