A resilient artist in an age of failing repressions throughout London the illustrative mastery of compelling occultist philosophe Austin Spare spoke through carnal masses and imaginative monstrosities whirling about precise bodily depictions, typically female, that’d adorn books of powerfully dogmatic aphorisms. Freed by his own beliefs on the subconscious, that a great magic power of humanity lay in immersing the will of desire into the subconscious, Spare‘s life was markedly spent stripping away the human psyches purposeful repression of desire and impulse. A twisted practicality speaks through his art as foundational works of sexuality, occultism, surrealism and the broader development of surrealist automation with techniques for creating art through dismissal of intent and erasure of control. Aphorisms laid bare by a great mind reach religious levels of charisma nigh automatically when bonded with the rarity of timeless art; Where the living truth of a mind that seeks freedom greater than what measly explanation men before him were given luckily, or forcibly, intersects with the possession experienced in admiration of a great work. When expulsed, the subconscious truths of man are laid out in the open, in nakedly harrowing resonance. Where this grotesque burning rip of the veil births, the blazon of Pulchra Morte‘s beautiful death pours in idolatrous excess.
A meeting of shared interest in classic death/doom Pulchra Morte formed as a unified quintet of musicians involved in the creation of monolithic Florida death metal band Eulogy, Missouri blackened death/thrash mystics Harkonin, and Atlanta sludge/metalcore group Degredations. Whatever expectation their ex-member status brings the only reasonable similarity one could crookedly draw would be the classic death metal drawl of Eulogy, minus the morbid angular technical approach. Of the old gods of death and the newly risen, Pulchra Morte‘s debut ‘Divina Autem et Aniles’ is the righteously captured essence of 90’s death/doom metal scourged into truly personal desolation, a chest-bursting crepitation of lungs swollen from howling tear and mental shock. The stylistic heft of ‘Divina Autem et Aniles’ is ‘old school’ in the sense that it aims to achieve a fitting entry into the realm of ‘Lost Paradise’ through the more refined traipse of 80’s Candlemass. Where so many melodic death/doom bands today rescind into Swedish lead guitar trope and slug-paced expressionistic movements, guitarists herein tackle the watery doom of ‘Gothic’ atop the glowering death charges of Novembers Doom ‘Of Sculptured Ivy And Stone Flowers’ with sludgy groove that appear far more graceful with a twinge of peak affliction Crowbar flying just under the radar. I might be underselling the spirit of the old patterns and the current standards of fidelity alike, though, and you’d be well enough informed to approach expecting pure doom riffs with classicist gothic affect expressed through death metals extremist tonality.
The pedigree of professional musician and performer here was readily proven in previous acts and while Eulogy and Harkonin alumni are certain to produce quality I’d no previous knowledge of guitarist Jeff Breden (Leagues Below, Moon Worshiper); Yet somehow it is his work on this record that grabbed my attention foremost. I don’t know who wrote what, or why but it speaks to not only my pretentious sense of ‘taste’ but my dissonant mentality. It could be my own long-standing obsession with the hairier side of melodic death/doom that pokes at riff and hook three times as often as it reaches for a violin or choral muse but, I immediately sunk into ‘Divina Autem et Aniles’. I did not merely collapse under its striking invocations of sorrow or the plodding, romanesque strings of melodic lead that highlight each track, Pulchra Morte‘s sourly dire debut pressed life’s most troubling concerns as a rifle against my temples. The gravitas of wintry depression desperately sought to fill my own emptiness with the inspirational death/doom jog of it all. As a quiet celebrant of ‘Gothic’, ‘Nightfall’, and ‘The Crestfallen’ the familiar crumbled psyche of this record provided consistent warming isolation as it played.
Though the minds temptation to bend sorrow into freeing catharsis might send the scatterbrained hipster idealist into remission, I latched onto that inherent familiarity and it spoke directly to me even without a lyric sheet. I’d seen previews of the 2018 single for highlighted track “Soulstench” suggest a bit of Bolt Thrower heaviness blended with the clear and literal nod to early Paradise Lost, a stellarly cover of “The Painless”, and this more or less works. If you’re keyed into the bigger picture of death/doom history and want the sharpest focal resemblance, God Forsaken‘s debut ‘Dismal Gleams of Desolation’ comes to mind first along with the very light scent of Warning‘s ‘The Strength to Dream’ providing the sweet vapor of classic British doom metal. A sucker and a senseless nerd for this sort of death/doom work I found myself anticipating ‘Divina Autem et Aniles’ after the “Soulstench” single and the full listen does entirely deliver upon the promise of that preview last year.
Side A is the best foot forward here and contains various husk-filling hooks throughout, eventually coming to the peak of “Fire and Storm” with doom riffs huge, twisted and almost bounding in their overloaded presence. You’ll understand the earlier Crowbar reference a bit better as Side B plays out, not that we’re getting melodic 90’s sludge en serio but that clever sense of ultra-downtuned doom riff from the late 90’s/early 00’s; “Black Stench” has some of that feeling as well. At first I’d convinced myself the first five tracks far out-muscled the second half of the album but the only real difference comes with a slight shift towards intricacy over hooks as the tracklist reveals itself. I’m left feeling great enthusiasm for this project and this moving debut, as such I am highly recommending it. It plays incredibly well on repeat, the production is mountainous and the material is immersive from start to finish. For preview I’d suggest the chest-clutching pain of “Fire and Storm” and if you’ve already worn out “Soulstench” then jump over to the satisfying progression of “Reflection of a Dying Sun”.
Laughing aloud, Zos answered. 4.5/5.0
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