The ripples of certain avant-garde guitar phrasal play and orthodox black metal tonality originating in France, Sweden and amplified by the Icelandic signal boosters converge as a Venn diagram’s intersecting points along the hemispheres of Finnish musician J. Lilja‘s mind. With a seemingly organic tunnel vision, Lilja‘s spurts of atmospheric warmth and brooding dissonance develop alongside a well nourished contempt for all mankind. This single-minded and driving approach served to prop up the early ideas from Devouring Star whilst in formation. ‘Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum’ and to a lesser degree ‘Flesh Cathedral’ both heavily informed his self-titled demo in 2013 and gratefully received ‘Through Lung and Heart’ (2015). Despite the driven and damning nature of the material much of Lilja‘s work relied upon a language he’d not necessarily written and it began to appear that his path was less a daring and difficult take on hallowed ground and more a dilution of greater visionaries. Although a recent collaborative split with Caecus finally found the strength to say otherwise, it will be ‘The Arteries of Heresy’ that allows Devouring Star to be fully revealed as a differently atmospheric craftsman rather than a soft imitation product.
With a mile of rattling barbed wire for guitars and a concrete hallway for atmospheric value generation comes the second full-length from this presumably Helsinki area project. There is little doubt that 2018 is an important and weighted year for Devouring Star‘s existence with a fairly long wait in between releases and an ambitious split release building expectations for ‘The Arteries of Heresy’. This comes coupled with the good news that he will provide guitars with Krypts since the exit of Jukka Aho (Gorephilia) this year. Instead of releasing the same album twice Lilja‘s focus appears fixated on finding his own pace and rhythm that strays from the ‘Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum’ focused methodology of the album previous. In many ways his work is successful in differentiating from the rhythms of ‘Through Lung and Heart’ yet the face of the band, the outward musical personality divined through the full listening experience, is initially indistinguishable from the many atmospheric black/death metal projects attempting this style.
The similarities to Svartidauði and more recent Blaze of Perdition releases were hard to shake if only because I’d spent a fair amount of time with each. The pacing does slow down to much more of a crawl than either typically sink towards, though again it feels like territory Zhrine made good work of on their debut. I’d only hope that doesn’t read unnecessarily dystopian because there is no such glut of this form of avant-dissonant black metal but the more recognizable names in the arena do a slightly better job of distinguishing themselves from their influences. Beyond useless mental comparisons comes the general lack of memorable movements within the whole of ‘The Arteries of Heresy’ that finds the album blurring together into one large echo chamber of darkness, and perhaps too similar approaches to each track with few standout moments outside of the general atmosphere of the pieces. Without asserting itself upon the listener the void of distinct song writing is felt intensely and fairly quickly. It is no doubt a ‘for fans of’ sort of release but at least a very good one.
Whereas ‘Through Lung and Heart’ reads like a damnatory sermon indicting the pious as sanctimonious trash, ‘The Arteries of Heresy’ relays a different theme with similar language; Mankind is posited as symbol and example of Sin, an existence that is itself punishment slowly bubbling up into apocalyptic suffering for whatever dregs exist as Earth ends. This is should read either as obvious or superficial philosophical Swiss cheese in terms of meaning. The use of Christian theological terms for effect suggests either an orthodox Satanic perspective or a belief in a higher judgement, a God or gods, as required for the concept of Sin to make any sense or have any weight. That we are all capable and inherently evil or sinful is an easy admission but not a deep thought and thankfully the theme and ideas are explored further within each song. The prose is equally as engaging as that of ‘Through Lung and Heart’ in the sense that I feel like I’ve been questioned and maligned by an occult inquisitor as it ends.
The slower pacing of the two introductory tracks on ‘The Arteries of Heresy’, “Consummation” and “Procreation of Blood”, provide an incomplete representation of the scope of the album. Beyond those relatively sluggish and heavily atmospheric lead-offs the rest of the record employs greater variety that often resembles the previous record. This has two main effects as the album is recognizably Devouring Star but, also starts with very low energy and builds to an early peak, the Antaeus-esque “Sin Assimilation”, in its middle. There is no grand riff that stood out, not atmospheric collision that gripped me, and the experience is almost too driven by a constant isotonic tension where I’m left impressed by not entirely sure why. As one great flowing piece it is at least an accomplishment of engineering and placement. There is little evidence that Devouring Star is yet a complete outlier and instead this latest record resembles an accomplished craftsman smartly building upon his larger conceptions. A moderate recommendation from me, as I am yet to be compelled to the point of obsession. For preview I’d suggest “Sin Assimilation” as the vitality of the full listen.
Dreams of suffering. 3.75/5.0
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