From end to end a crumbling chasm in the atmospheric reaches of pale-grayed sky opens our verdancy to the mutations of the no longer benevolent Surya, radiation comes in scorching blasts that’d weaken all but the most iron skin. The madness afflicted by the sun’s rays is first tinder for the perpetually self-nourishing nature of violence among men who’d thrive on domination by instinct and subsist on binary thought for the sake of their own fiery doom. No relief from pain exists beyond narcotic in the mind of the unincorporated layman of the future yet, death’s craft divined for generations persists as healthful respite for the most violently insane among us. Here a deep meditation to invert the chasmic loss of environment and accept our muddy, poisoned future persists as slow-driven, harrowingly morbid fervor by way of Portland, Oregon cult of atmospheric death Sempiternal Dusk. The quartet aim for stratospheric lift beyond their 2014 debut with the scalded forms that define ‘Cenotaph of Defectuous Creation’ and surely deliver their finest hour to date therein.
Without question the release of ‘Sempiternal Dusk’ in 2014 struck me amidst a bout of short-sighted extancy and I’d taken it upon myself to describe it as “Incantation with Electric Wizard production“, giving an average score and perhaps not a close enough set of listens. Returning to that debut today I can understand where the former self was coming from but the lineage of death/doom behind and before Sempiternal Dusk would have provided some meaningful context for both the intended aim and general oeuvre of their moving parts; Members of this band have spent time in some of the finer alchemical doom acts from the Portland area including Aldebaran, Shroud of the Heretic, Nightfell, and Seattle’s short-lived but way-loved Anhedonist. A smaller push towards blackened death metal techniques stretched between death/doom metal structures when the band reconvened in 2017 for a split with Encoffination, providing a solid example of the daunting path forward for the band. As I’ve locked myself into a habit of collective Cauldron Black Ram releases since, it’d be their split with Sempiternal Dusk that had me bought into the idea that this was still exactly my kind of band despite not loving the self-titled debut at first glance. This current sound will undoubtedly remind the patient listener of key works by Necros Christos, Drowned, and Grave Miasma in the sense that the shared Incantation-esque movements among all mentioned artists remain fairly devout in creation of truly atmospheric death metal.
So, reading between the lines… its a ‘caverncore’ record? No, outside of those stated similarities and influences much of ‘Cenotaph of Defectuous Creation’ rests within a mid-paced death metal core. Two hulking 10+ minute death/doom tracks that reach for the next leap beyond bookend this nearly 40 minute record, creating a sonic chasm where it’d seem much of the material in the middle of the tracklist intensifies its pace only to recede back towards equal shores of doom as the album ends. The two most insulating layers speak to a pure death metal vision of death/doom (“Orgiastic Feast Upon Martyred Flesh”) and then blacken that sight with an Aeternus-esque (see also: ‘Trivne Impvrity Rites’) rhythmic whirr (“Refracted Suffering Through the Windows of Hell”); Although these differences aren’t enormous they do feed into the violent core of ‘Cenotaph of Defectuous Creation’ towards a furor beyond that which was experienced on Sempiternal Dusk‘s debut. The entirety of this record’s weight isn’t held within stylistic modulation, though, and it’ll be the alternating focus between powerful death metal riffs and atmospheric meander that will sell the death/doom fandom on this fine record.
Receiving this record concurrently with Nightfell‘s latest album admittedly split my mind into comparative thinking initially as drummer/vocalist Tim Call is an imposing and vital force in each project and some measure of atmospheric death/doom metal is employed in each as a main point of focus. Ultimately each record reveal themselves as different beasts entirely, as different as Bolt Thrower and Incantation were circa 1994 or so. The major draw within my extended time with ‘Cenotaph of Defectuous Creation’ would quickly become the two extended pieces that start and finish the length of the album respectively; “Spears of Pestilence” is the most obliterative and satisfying death/doom piece that Sempiternal Dusk have managed thus far. All of this is well and good but I would raise an eyebrow to anyone who’d see this band has within a period of great change or any formative positioning with regard to this set of songs. To be certain Sempiternal Dusk have improved the general fidelity and heaviness of their doom influenced sound but the core concept and feeling of the project is unchanged and entirely consistent between records. The only notable shift is some increasingly blackened edges along the way, which have arrived alongside second guitarist V.B. (Weregoat, Aldebaran).
Opener “Excavated Filth From Dimensional Incarnations” reinforces this point while also emphasizing the compounded strengths of the band with their churning malice in full gear before tearing a hole into another dimension roughly 7:15 into the song. The ensuing psychedelic rift created is prime for its ‘classic yet modern’ death metal feeling providing exactly the right first impression for the atmosphere the record intends to convey. It is a righteous taste to roll on the tongue and savor though I’m not sure that any one riff continued to stick with me beyond 48 hours or so. It’d be a love for this style of death metal that kept me engaged, the death/doom metal fandom will appreciate this bigger more brutal spectrum a great deal. Otherwise I’d generally suggest the value of ‘Cenotaph of Defectuous Creation’ is higher in the moment rather than in reflection of its finer pieces. Still, a fine record that comes with a high recommendation. For preview purposes I’d suggest starting with the pairing of “Excavated Filth from Dimensional Incarnations” and “Refracted Suffering Through the Windows of Hell” with the understanding that you’ve listened to nearly half of the record at that point.
An endless corridor of despair. 4.0/5.0
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