The inevitable end comes as the last hydrogen unto helium presses the great burning fury of Sól unto dense rigidity, expanding into crimson giant before beginning to dissolve amidst a scattering of her humors. Under a great suffocating, gaseous shell formed around this final flickering eon comes pulses of ruin upon all orbiting worlds. The corpses of these planets linger around her form anew, a great white gravekeeper of an eternity’s ruins turned to dust, and dust into her blindness. The coming pulses of the red giantess unto whitening corpse are unknown to the fools licked by the slow burn of Sól‘s red sword, each revolution tightens the coming cull. What then does the sentient do to sate the fear when faced with the reality of nothingness, of becoming floating cosmic pollution? Malevolence is the uprising of the destined giver of life and bringer of void. Wanton fiery destruction is the most serious knowing cruelty the goddess is capable and in 2018 we are feeling the earliest eruptions of her savage resentment. Icelandic black metal trio Svartidauði channel these revelations not into defiance or mourning but rather worship of the procession of man and the end of all life. ‘Revelations of the Red Sword’ exists not to slake the great sun’s thirst for cataclysmic suicide but to stoke the final combustion on high.
As if reignited within the early Deathspell Omega fueled burn of their ‘The Temple of Deformation’ (2006) demo with Blut Aus Nord‘s ‘Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue with the Stars’ informing deeper alignment with the creator-destroyer, Reykjavík’s Svartidauði rise for their second full-length experience in sixteen years and in doing so offer what is easily one of the finest examples of modern black metal in 2018. Its pervasive rhythms are snaking darkness and glistening light imbued, offering acceptance of ones fated death through easing motions sent swirling by intense spurts of ringing descent. All points are smoothed as movements offer a drowning softness; The guitar work appears almost entirely fluid with only a semblance of melodic direction creating passage through these shorter, more succinct and interrelated compositions. Where ‘Flesh Cathedral’ was similarly subtle in performance the edge of that style of drumming is replaced with greater dramatic percussive forms that are smartly set as the basal layer of the mix.
This polished-over grain of black metal’s traditional production values become a newly inhabited body of enlightenment, a gorgeously black and shining opulence that is silken in atmosphere and distant in connection. ‘Revelations of the Red Sword’ hums and beats the ear as if post-music’s astral projections inform its spaciousness but the greater aggressive sensibilities of Svartidauði are no less ruthless than before. With their former second guitarist Nökkvi Gylfason now committed solely to Zhrine it appears the core trio of the band had been collectively aimed at something more bold, a greater sonic potential realized with less obtrusive sound. ‘Revelations of the Red Sword’ is both a recognizable development of post-‘Flesh Cathedral’ ideas, with the ‘Untitled’ (2017) EP being the closest sonic relation, and a massive departure from expectations. The guitar work is their own but with some it errs on the side of Blut Aus Nord and Misþyrming rather than the DsO and early Aosoth spectrum, that is to say it is driven by a listless melodicism more than complex and clangorous attack.
As a passive listening experience there manifests a great complex structural loom that Svartidauði weaves each song from. The sound of the recording is consistent and non-experimental in terms of textural instrumental play or studio effects, this allows for a resounding sameness between each track. Variety comes with how well the album’s high fidelity expresses the range of the composition from charming dissonance to melodic praise. It was initially very difficult to not compare the recent high of Carpe Noctem‘s second full-length ‘Vitrun’ in terms of rising fidelity and more conceptually written pieces, though this record is far less doomed in tone. ‘Revelations of the Red Sword’ does admittedly appear self-same without high levels of immersion, it breathes and grows as its reconstructed rhythms form larger statements through familiarity. Unlike the somewhat similar Ascension record from this year, ‘Under Ether’, I did not connect with this album without a concerted effort towards its analysis and the key turned out to be rapt attention, despite its heavily atmospheric sound.
The reality of this second Svartidauði full-length release extrudes a beautiful and charming cloud of carbonized humanity encroaching with great beauty only to suffocate and burn the listener into ash that would fuel greater death. Unarguably hypnotic and just on the edge of anxietous sensibilities ‘Revelations of the Red Sword’ applies only moderate tension in creating a moving, highly-dramatic style of atmospheric black metal. It is one of the best releases of 2018 because it excites my own sensibilities for the atmospheric, ‘dissonant’ reshaping of orthodox black metal. I’m rarely left thinking that a band couldn’t possibly do better than their most recent release but in this case I am. Highly recommended. For preview “Sol Ascending” might not be as immediately effective as “The Howling Cynocephali” but it did eventually become one of my favorite tracks on the album along with the incredible closer “Aureum Lux”.
Crushed into neutrons. 4.5/5.0
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