Among the more infamous depictions of hybridized, unreasonably demonic fauna spread from ancient Greek writ unto superstitious Christian mysticism, the basilisk is all the more interesting for the inadvertent connection its description draws between snake, bird, and their shared attributes. The creature itself must’ve been some form of cobra or similarly capable snake with venomous spit and upright stature yet, its inclusion into countless bestiary prior to the more reasonable age of the natural philosphe is both comical and a banner to the general stupidity of pre-scientific documentation. That particular mythological hybridization persists within high fantasy realms today and would make for fitting enough concept back in 2009 when musician Josh Perrin would name his solo progressive black/death metal project Basilysk. Though Perrin would persist with the project he’d join New Jersey death metallers Deform around 2013. Deform would only put out one demo but their powerful old school death metal sound was nonetheless notable as a collaboration between several talented musicians who could count Colin Tarvin (Mortuous), Perrin, and drummer Mike Churry (Necrosexual) among their ranks. The band would sadly split up after the sudden death of guitarist Tim Ninerell in 2015. Perrin would revive Basilysk in 2016 with Churry, and then into a full-on prog-death/thrash metal quintet in 2017. No doubt they’d bring along some of the ‘old school’ spirit of Deform coupled with their own hybridization of Basilysk‘s progressive death/black thrash ideas old and new. The debut full-length from the now Philadelphia, Pennsylvania based project, ‘Emergence’, is an expression of collapsing norms, a vitalized veneration of the Ancient Ones that would worship no master when considered whole.
Where old school death metal fanatics go when they’ve defrocked and unveiled the mysterious rhythms of the late 80’s and early 90’s generally amounts to some of the most interesting death metal takes in the last twenty years but, it’d be naive to consider ‘Emergence’ a fully formed entity just yet. Basilysk generally rely upon a decades worth of sporadic and well-honed black/thrash and progressive death metal ideas but this debut merely collects them within a clever arrangement. It reads a bit like ‘Covenant’ in the sense that Morbid Angel had plucked the tracklist from their then career spanning songwriting; You will no doubt pick up on Azagthothian hints throughout ‘Emergence’ but nothing so concrete that you’ll consider it a traditional death metal record. In fact Basilysk never sit still long enough to truly escape the thrust of their varietal approach to death metal. It isn’t quite Atheist nor is it as atmospheric as say, mid-career Disciples of Power in terms of technique but the energetic, less-than-smooth transitions throughout ‘Emergence’ do feel like an experimental and/or progressive death metal band from the early 90’s, at least in spirit.
To be completely honest I’d set Basilysk aside for a couple of weeks after initially drafting a review. Not because it was bad, in fact this is a very good progressive death metal album with a strong mix of US death metal classicism and wild breaks into pit riffs and thrash breaks throughout. The reason I’d needed some time to consider it came with several journalists positing that it were a black/thrash metal record. Absurd as this will seem when you fire it up yourself I had to take my own bias and knowledge of extreme metal sub-genre history with a grain of salt and wonder if I’d missed something. That time apart from ‘Emergence’ clarified some value judgments and additionally confirmed that it was simply a case of laziness on the part of Kerrang et al. The lineage beyond Death, Sadus and records like Exoto‘s ‘Carnival of Souls’ weave into ‘Emergence’ but you’ll get clearer hints towards post-millennium metal that culminate in the duo of “Sinners in Their Own Reality” and “Sad State of the Arts” which might resemble a wretched oddity like Scar Culture if not for their ‘off-kilter’ late death/thrash metal feeling. The 14+ minute session that is “Prebirth – Karma – Afterlife” compounds some of that early Morbid Angel influence and does so in brilliant form; It more or less makes up for the amount of jumbled filler that would otherwise define the listening experience, if only they’d left out the near note-for-note “War Pigs” jam at the end of the song.
The full listen is surely a mess and I suggest this without taking any issue with the generally ambitious style Basilysk are working with. When ‘Emergence’ does blend together their early 90’s Sadus-esque sound with their black/thrash styled songs those tracks tend to culminate in a sort of hardcorish way, sounding a bit like The Crown and perhaps not in a good way. When they duck into their more standard death metal approach there is undoubtedly more harmony in effect, though the ‘edge’ that variety provides is dampened. If those aspects were combined in every song as seamlessly as they are on “Prebirth – Karma – Afterlife” the record would sit better with me overall. A set of eight silent and/or ambient tracks lead up to a ‘hidden’ song “Clouds” and though the song is absolutely well worth waiting for the long block of silence between staggers the full listen horribly. It is a tough prospect to analyze because Basilysk are all the more interesting for their varied tonality and recklessly adventurous approach but a honing in upon their strengths would undoubtedly produce a better listening experience. I can moderately recommend this debut from the Pennsylvania band, they’ve done a fine job in breathing considerable life into Perrin‘s conglomerated vision. There is little doubt they will persist, and impress further, in the future. Moderately high recommendation. For preview the jogging, pseudo-speed metal of “Sad State of the Arts” should give a sense of the records energy but I wouldn’t make any judgement until you’ve heard “Prebirth – Karma – Afterlife” in its entirety.
Digesting soured wisdom. 3.5/5.0
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