ROPE SECT – The Great Flood (2020)REVIEW

Ailing under the bind of the endless stage of Grihastha, yearning for the freedom of Vanaprastha, the restless chest clenches around a heart dreaming of the world’s drowning. Plague, deluge, infestation, and violence alight all imagined for the sake of Sannyasa arriving that much sooner. To plant feet in forest and root down away from pitfalls and prattling masses is less a gothic romanticism than it is asocial violence, not a social deathwish but rather a storm in mind conjured in defiance of the very illness society feeds to unwilling, milled humanity. Anything but deadpan and far from dispassionate, German musician Inmesher and his balmy, eccentric ‘folkish yet soured’ post-punk influenced guitar rock band Rope Sect remain possessed by withdrawals that force a certain signature Risus sardonicus upon their lips — A strychnine grin as wide and toxic as the great rising sea itself in response to the hastening, self-propelled downfall of man. In the most obviate tradition of classic post-punk and independent rock music apart ‘The Great Flood‘ offers no layer of subtext, only direct honesty that dull minds have been deaf to for countless generations and the sermon is unrepentant as a spiritually inclined man on a sidewalk, waving his arms and wearing a sign (tight) around his neck proclaiming “The End is Near“.

A lot of folks approach post-punk and its meaningful connection to gothic rock (and subsequently gothic metal) as if each compartment is spiritually related and bonded by any certain ideology. I’d challenge this at every turn as what is conveyed and related amongst outsiders, individuals spirited in their seclusion to pour gloom upon all else, is relative and shares vague melodic and atmospheric lineage. The sort of music at the heart of Rope Sect‘s melodic inspiration comes from youthful self-scathing sentiment via Katatonia‘s stabilization in the early 2000’s as their shift towards gothic alt-rock influenced heaviness allowed for complex guitar hooks and development of personalized vocal cadence, which would thankfully evolve with some core reasoning over time. But this is superficial, not a blueprint but a spark that’d inform the easy malaise of Rope Sect; A touch of ex-extreme metal depressive rock blues informs the ‘playful’ (it is, though) melodic sense of Inmesher as he becomes the increasingly dire, closed-eyed and passionate doom-crooning prophesier on ‘The Great Flood’.

True post-punk given nods by the artist, such as Berlin’s first taste of the sub-genre Pink Turns Blue, is likewise a vague notion of atmosphere explored where a stark and cryptic amount of space defines the mood. It is an appropriate mention if you’re familiar with very deep cut bands, and you should certainly hunt down a copy of ‘Meta‘ informs your ear what to expect, and what color of candle to light upon your altar, but their mention doesn’t at all begin to describe what Rope Sect sound like. You’ll encounter no such use of synthesizers or anything inorganic, drugged, or belligerently art-rock’d punk. If you’re in the market for that, certainly track down Deth Crux‘ underrated LP from last year. Let’s us sit and muse over hints of moderne occult rock, the cold desert bound spirituals of Sol Invictus in the mid-90’s (see: ‘Death of the West’), and the early works of modern dark revivalist wunderkind Beastmilk whom tend to align best spiritually with Inmesher‘s mind palace, even if the croon n’ clangor of contemporaries still don’t always match up with the tuneful ‘self’ of this project. Think depressive, commanding guitars with a rigid snapping tone void of any tingling or shoegazing sentimentality. Spacious, booming Albini-worthy drum swats that often erupt into showers of crashes and heavy stomps sure to satisfy the dabbling extreme metal crowd typically drawn to Rope Sect‘s work and especially those who’d grown up in the early-to-mid 90’s grunge apex vacuum.

Speaking of Beastmilk, beyond the quickly spread admiration for Rope Sect‘s debut (‘Personae Ingratiae‘, 2017) and the follow-up EP (‘Proselytes‘, 2017) they’d become a full-fledged live outfit just to meet the demands of accompanying that popular band’s second skin Grave Pleasures on German tour dates nearby. Of course folks know I’m a fan of everything Kvohst (especially Hexvessel) and to see him collaborate on a few songs on this album helped to catch my ear a bit more and solidify a few of the most compelling pieces on the album. “Prison of You” and “Flood Flower” act as important and certainly effusive expansion of what one could expect from an act like Rope Sect, not only does McNerney bring his otherworldly charm to these songs but the compositions rise to the occasion around him, molding quite comfortably to his keen, outrageous melodic sense on “Flood Flower” in particular. These are the most ‘gothic rock’ tracks in some sense but the joy of being understood in collaboration brings this elevated esotericism to the album that wouldn’t become palpable without those two pieces. In fact if not for some particularly spirited guitar work and several sustaining hooks much of ‘The Great Flood’ might feel too ethereal for its own good, a fine and hapless consistency that reigns with one utmost mood.

Undoubtedly it will be “Hiraeth” that twists and wrings your body into movement no matter how brutally sedentary you intend to be. Its springing, self-severing main riff is an immediate and menacing infection, a piece that demands it be exhausted and abused like a true rock guitar single. Yet it doesn’t land as a heroic moment, at all, because the hook was merely the floor falling beneath your feet. The song instead pushes into ethereal dread and sullen prose fitting for a piece named for nostalgia and regret. Side B isn’t all emotional brutality, though as “Issohadores” finds us at least in the bargaining stage of grief and (along with “Rope of the Just” on Side A) makes the case for a post-punk tag a bit more than the rest of the gothic rock leanings of the album’s second half. The driven start of opener “Divide et Impera” isn’t reprised beyond “Hiraeth” in terms of rhythmic texture but as all of these remarkably down-turned crosses begin to form a hallucinatory cemetery view in mind the ‘classic’ spiritus of Rope Sect begins to leave its mark. This is where I’d pull in meaningful comparison to another bespoke influence upon the band, The Chameleons who’d found a way to be even more shattering on their second release not only for the existential demands of the lyrics but for a bleakest vocal, even as the fidelity found a small boost the vocalist was dripping with dread and I’d felt like this was the right analogue for what ‘The Great Flood’ is compared to ‘Personae Ingratiae’ before it, more of everything but also a very personal dread expressed without any dry camp, perhaps not enough ego for folks looking for a big, brassy gothic/post-punk sorrowfest. It is a deeper, catchier bout of dread that hits the mark far more than prior attempts where stronger capability will broaden the reach of the band’s work, likely satisfying gothic metal/heavy rock fans with the heavier riffing of songs like “Diluvian Darkness” in the process.

Guitar hooks, warm breathiness and emotionally charged doomsaying could sustain any listener for a lifetime but approaching the lyrics with some serious consideration is as vital as feeling the mood and divining the implied emotional resonance of the album’s greater timbre. Here I can compound earlier statements with the idea that the themes of this album can be seen as very direct and obviate, the only piece that is missing beyond first impression is primarily the notion that this coming great flood won’t be quite so Biblical when it hits — No one will be spared, there is no special allowance or place for burning-and-drowned believers as Death will serve no sycophant special treatment when the extinction of man by their own environmental follies has fully hit. This is plain paraphrasing spanning just a handful of threads strewn within the album’s lyrics but the scathing comes in full order as the album progresses, stabbing at the ruthlessly ignorant as often as it develops personal spiritual center for void-worshiping doomsday revelers and those who’d thrill over apocalyptic prose. Vacillation of scale and perspective makes the lyrics an interesting read to interpret for the sake of the narration can be personal, disaffected, outright forlorn, menacing and downright occult at the highest point of stir in the middle portion of the album. Meaning is the extra layer of texture needed when considering the very simple and pure recordings on hand, if you do nothing to dig up this vital strata you’ll have to depend on subtle guitar hooks to sustain long term interest if dabbling in depressive rock rather than fully absorbing into its guile. This won’t likely be enough to hold the more mainstream flight of Grave Pleasures and later In Solitude fandom but the crate-digging weirdos among us will recognize the emotional resonance and sardonic wrath of ‘The Great Flood’ with some immediacy.

The full listen is too long at ~45 minutes yet I cannot lose a moment of it when left on repeat. I’d put it on once and soon the third or fourth spin had occurred so naturally. Without fail I could not deny ‘The Great Flood’ its entirety on any subsequent listen where the guitar tone satisfied with each grind of its pebble-chewing rhythm guitar tone, a reasonably reverb-dunked ambiance level, and slick leads. The effect is ‘gothic’ yet on the verge of anthemic as the mood levels intuitively from piece to piece, granting consistency as the album’s lyrics without an entirely deadpan or old fashioned presence. At the end of the day I’ll find myself returning to this album for some time not only because it is so well crafted but because Rope Sect manage to be so different from their peers and any needless sub-genre association. It certainly won’t be for everyone but this album was able to grip me with no relief in sight for the bloodless flesh in hand. The spirit guest performances certainly helped to skew my perspective somewhat towards the positive but there is no doubt ‘The Great Flood’ is consolation enough as preparation for the doom it foretells. A high recommendation.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:The Great Flood
LABEL(S):Iron Bonehead Productions
RELEASE DATE:August 12th, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Gothic Rock,
Sannyasa Rock

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