A research scientist views any manner of sameness or uniformity as the prime angle for manipulation, the preference for eliminating the outlier within data. Ensuring results that are primed for repeatable manufacture means making milled clonal creatures (isogenic subjects) out of smaller, quick-breeding animals that are naturally more diverse than human beings by at least one factor. Genetic variability between two humans might average at a divergence of about 0.05% of their DNA whereas the E.Coli strains on the back of their throats would vary by 5% and the same could be approximated of the fruit flies buzzing about their sweet, shit-smelling mouths. Breeding out variance in pliant subjects sometimes means eliminating traits key for survival or actively trading out unique physical attributes for sake of minimal housing or care — In the scientifically-charged yet incorrigibly mythic realm of Dortmund, North Rhine-Westphalia-based blackened death metal band Khthoniik Cerviiks dystopia is such conformity. Not conformity for the sake of socio-politic alignment by way of one mind but the very real sensation of having only meaningless, colorless binary choices in all aspects of life. Uniformity is the savage death of sense within civilization where technocracy deems all but the most elite anti-human minds cattle for herding into repeatable, predictable commercialized results. The German trio’s second full-length album, ‘Æequiizoiikum’ navigates this homogenized and manipulated hellscape by way of their signature mind-flaying flair for unexpected divergence, embodying their idealization of the irreconcilable outlier in motion, as a living-and-writhing triangulated being captured on very real terms whilst performing entirely unreal acts.

As two long-developed acts reached a point of exhaustion and could no longer sustain the will to live a bout of apoptosis left pieces of death metal band Zuul and perhaps more established black metal group Ignis Uranium dead and stewing in primordial pieces. These were two products of Germany’s penchant for strange and cryptic extreme metal where the avant-garde that often exports beyond the country’s borders is just the tip of the iceberg. As is old history at this point, the band’s had shared rehearsal space on some level and members would gravitate their already somewhat relatable motions into a three-headed beast circa 2013. The first demo (‘Heptaëdrone‘, 2014) to come from Khthoniik Cerviiks is arguably their only material that draws a somewhat clear evolutionary line back towards Ignis Uranium‘s 2009 full-length ‘Azimuth Nuctemeron Frequency‘ where an advanced and wildly cosmic form of technical black metal remains somewhat lost to obscure history. I enjoyed that album quite a bit and frankly wouldn’t bother with even a short bio beyond getting a chance to recommend hunting down ‘Azimuth Nuctemeron Frequency’. What were Khthoniik Cerviiks then and what are they now? Very much a swarm of insect-like being that’d shed its carapace every so often and capture it live in studio for the sake of being a unit and not disparate pieces. Or, in more concrete terms, a blackened death metal band that brings the virile blasphemic bluster of Katharsis, the resonant discord of prime Piggy-era Voivod, and the spiky hare-brained punkish brutality of ‘We Are Death… Fukk You!’-era Sadistik Exekution. Not only do they feature the scraggly intensity and rapacious attack of these pieces but a complete aesthetic representation by way of guitarist/vocalist Khraâl Vri*ïl‘s artwork and unique phonetic syntax create a complete musical identity for the band. They are the outlier that’ve managed their place in a world scantly populated by freaks, real and imagined.

Though its December release date back in 2015 meant I wouldn’t discover it until early 2016 the first full-length (‘SeroLogiikal Scars (Vertex of Dementiia)’, 2015) from the band would eventually find a prominent placement on my ‘Best of’ list for that year by way of its sweeping-yet-angular warp of oddly felt guitar progressions. A slightly cavernous drum sound with prominent guitar placement combined in a notable way, bearing that angular Piggy-esque sense of discordant chaos while forming phrases that’d normalize in their resonance. It was something special that many folks would miss due to when it’d released and due to their idiosyncratic nature it’d really only implore the sight of folks attuned to the bands previously mentioned. Khthoniik Cerviiks‘ next set of songs, ‘Voidwarp’ would release as their side of a split with then-dissolving Howls of Ebb (‘With Gangrene Edges​/​Voiidwarp‘, 2017). This’d been a key release for the band being noticed on a larger scale and in terms of pushing Vri*ïl‘s guitar work deeper into a noise rock, space rock, and classic rock solo-sparking level of stretch-and-warp, going for oddest shapes and deepest thematic arcs to date. This felt like a progression into bigger things at the time but really it’d been a point of reaching intended levels of render and creativity for the project. ‘Æequiizoiikum’ is not meant to one-up previous recordings and doesn’t intend to build upon old structures or ‘progress’ into some greater expanse. It isn’t a ‘bigger for the sake of bigger’ record by any means yet simple the next experience from the band and an end to their Mark I configuration as it’ll be the final performance to include original drummer Ohourobohortiik Ssphäross (Painferno).

Interviews with the band offer a glimpse at the machinery and the provenance that’d explain the workings of the project’s modus where the drivers soldiering on by way of intuitive aggression building their curious reap from an entirely jammed songwriting process. Their ethos guides them as a band that aims to arrive upon the right feeling before working in a certain amount of detail, that thrill-ride of shockingly warped rhythms must be repeatable on a human level rather than crafted as an elaborate, impossible to perform production. At their core Khthoniik Cerviiks are not a studio band but a hard-at-work power trio existing for the triangulation of their movements, it must work in real time to be real at all! It just so happens that when they get it right and find compositions that suit it all results in a deceptively alien sound which’d inherently been sourced from a traditional place, the jam room, which serves well the intention of their own blackened death metal taste. Use of live recording techniques means each recording has the signature of a true live performance with very minimal overdubs; The moody ambiance and bleeding reverberations find the entire room captured as the complete performance. I cannot emphasize enough how strong a statement of presence a ‘live in studio’ session is as a lasting artifact compared to an experience orchestrated on a laptop through endless tracking. In this sense Khthoniik Cerviiks is a living animal, natural and feral in motion with no God or master’s hand in sight.

In terms of how this album will work out for the initiated fan who knows generally what to expect, I’d characterize ‘Æequiizoiikum’ as the jagged-horned, space-piratical villain of thier discography, offering a dark tale that feeds off of its noisome properties while blending the trio’s actions in a more deliberate sense. The theme of the experience was initially more important to me than the details of the songs, seeing shades of science fiction dystopia in literature similarly wracked by conformity, such as Brave New World (1932) or The Giver (1993), represented in even more bleak terms and black/death aesthetics. Though it wouldn’t be long before the guitar work and listening experience would become my major focus as I began to hear the evolution of a rehearsal from late February 2018 that they’d put online around that time, a thing I’d been obsessed with in anticipation of new material from the band. Being privy to the process emphasizes the core juxtaposition Khthoniik Cerviiks appears to intend — The merging of ‘human’ elements with ‘God’-like creations, where those frantic scrawled riffs in rehearsal can be heard becoming pieces of thrilling opener “Odyssey 3000”, oozing out of the slimy translucent pod we’d gotten to peer into a couple of years ago. In terms of render and production value I’d suggest this record likely has fewer overdubbed guitar elements or at least aims to blend their frequencies with the live action of the band in a more subtle way than past releases. As a result the guitar sound isn’t subdued but somewhat less prominent than it was back in 2017, the trade-off is more or less an organic ‘real’ sensibility in favor of spiky, loudly stabbing tone and it works for me. “Æequiizoiikum (Mothraiik Rites)” won’t leave any listener deprived of past violence but it does begin to introduce slight swigs of post-hardcore guitar shapes, think of it as if ‘Zen Arcade’ were interpreted by way of Absu‘s most recent full-length, a love of flourish and guitar effects finding its way into work that’d already shattered rigid sub-genre forms.

Several highlights remain, such as the rhytmic play in the second half of “Para-Dog-Son – Demagorgon”, the blissful streaking of “Kollektiing Koffiin Naiils (Délire des Négations Sequence” and the early StarGazer-esque progression of “Bloodless Epiiphany (Délire des Négations Sequence 2.0)” where the snake bites a foot farther than predicted and grazes skin with steaming poisonous harass. I’m not sure the unexpected rears its head as often as some prior material but I’d chalk that up to desensitization by way of fandom these last six or so years. Where I most highly praise Khthoniik Cerviiks this time around is in their craft of memorable pieces, each song maintains that careening, “about to tip over” sensation of balancing act without losing sight of differentiation between pieces, this ends up being the main point of why I might praise ‘Æequiizoiikum’ over past work, it doesn’t feel the need to be “more than” but instead manages to be entertaining and clever at a high rate. Spectacle, substance, and a high standard maintained all help to retain me as a dedicated touter of this torrential force of a band. A very high recommendation.

High recommendation.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Iron Bonehead Productions
RELEASE DATE:July 17th, 2020
BUY/LISTEN/STREAM:Bandcamp [Digital]
GENRES:Black/Death Metal

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