In tribute, an epitaph, a celebration, and a new beginning with the reality of loss empowering the artist with a purpose or steadied will — What fuels death music comes with a realization of sovereignty and survival, individual and communal perspective that reflects upon grief with powerful noise that bears strength and action eerily inhuman yet brutally realist, deliberate. Private compassion engulfs the individual, communal ritual strengthens shared experience. It yanks my throat from my neck to think of the brilliant who suffer alone amidst the cattle who feel nothing yet there’d be no conviction among us otherwise. The thought that we’d lost Vantaa, Finland-based death metal quintet Gorephilia after the suicide of vocalist Henu in 2018 was thankfully only briefly cruel, they would continue on as a quartet and use some of his lyrics for this new album, ‘In the Eye of Nothing‘; This third full-length arrives as a great force of solemnity, a dignified ceremonial bout of classicist death metal that adds another satisfyingly brutal claim to their plot in the great crypt of Finnish death metal elite.
And oh, what a mess it’d been if they’d kept their original name Goretexx, which they’d released a couple of demos (‘Rotting‘, 2007) before shifting their weight towards something worthy of cranking outside of the garage. Two more demos would follow in a decidedly more ‘old school’ Finnish style thought without a great deal of death/doom therein. The ‘In Death‘ (2010) demo gives the best idea of where the formative years of Gorephilia where headed before they’d begin to stylize their sound with heaps more Morbid Angelic gusto. ‘Ascend to Chaos‘ (2011) saw the band developing the a more precise, brutal style though it meant they’d soon need a drummer to match. That EP was where I’d discover the band, having recently discovered their label via an Horrendous demo or Adversarial‘s debut (can’t recall), either way the potential for what would come was there but I think most of my death metal circle at the time kinda balked at the cover art and didn’t take it all that serious until it came time to sit with the songs. With a one-off drummer, a professional recording, brilliant cover art, and an emphasis on their distinctively sludged out, post-‘Covenant’ feel for slow-to-mid paced riffs the debut album (‘Embodiment of Death‘, 2012) from Gorephilia ended up high on my best of the year list. It is yet a brutally underrated record and a vital part of their development, stating key forms that would be expanded upon with each release afterward.
Before a second guitarist and a new drummer were added it is worth noting that their bassist would join Solothus and guitarist would join Krypts each contributing to unforgettable Finnish death metal releases in the interim and returning to Gorephilia wiser, and with an intense vision for the future. ‘Severed Monolith‘ (2017) is yet that underrated ‘classic’ within a crowded space, an album that folks might revisit for years before bowing to its supremacy. Therein the band would hit a new high of complexity, brutality, and doomed affect that would stand out in a thrilling ‘true’ display of death metal action. The addition of current …And Oceans/Aegrus drummer Kauko Kuusisalo meant Gorephilia were at their most technical and intense on that second album; In some ways ‘In the Eye of Nothing’ eases upon the exacting brutality of the previous record for the sake of memorable movements. This means the drumming feels both more traditional and demanding in presence, crawling back into the swamp for songs that demand soul-warping hooks and tunneling spiritus bigger than the tirade of riffs on the previous album. I mention this for two reasons — First, to emphasize my appreciation for a different feeling on this album compared to the last. Second, to show some appreciation for the versatility of the performers and guitarist/vocalist Jukka Aho‘s (ex-Krypts) central songwriting role. Gorephilia are changed, be it adaptation or a new concentration, yet they are strengthened and atop a fresh high standard.
Without yet overlooking the precedent tracks the third piece on the running order, “Ouroboran Labyrinth” is a fine example of the perceived evolution of Gorephilia‘s sound. The core progression is essentially a godform relevant to the legacy of ‘Blessed are the Sick’ that bears lessons learned on both ‘Embodiment of Death’ that eases into slippery, sludgy territory while still keeping up with the wild-whipping riff fest that was ‘Severed Monolith’. It is worth noting the piece itself is aptly named, representing a cyclic yet complicated form. We don’t have to go far for another key juxtaposition in “Devotion Upon the Worm”, which features a more sprawling late 90’s/early 2000’s Morbid Angel feeling. Keep in mind I’m referencing the basal form here, I could compare a hundred bands but if you’re familiar with ‘Gateways to Annihilation’ and its downtuned horrors, there is yet a sliver of that slime-ridden sound here. The big difference is some exploration of what could be described as modern dissonance within the track and this would help to shy me away from an otherwise natural comparison to, say, the most recent Skeletal Remains album.
Atmosphere and adventurous composition do not simply gild ‘In the Eye of Nothing’, they characterize it and help to craft even more distinct personage for the overall ritual. Likewise, even before Side B has even begun to draw near it is clear that Aho‘s vocals are exceptional and practiced, this is perhaps the biggest surprise to have developed in such a short period of time. Bits of reverb and relatively laid back phrasing help to ease these moments along the way but there is nothing meek, shy, or amateur about the chest-hoarked gusts he manages; “Simplicity of Decay” has this sickening wretch just past the minute mark, a small touch of a different tone that adds to the personification of the attack as the aggression of the song develops… Into a hook-assed riff that sounds like Negative Approach‘s “Evacuate” as it refrains. Certainly not an intended summon as such, yet it means I’ll never forget that song and in the process this second side of the album becomes vital and anticipated upon further listening. “Ark of the Undecipherable” is perhaps the most overall dynamic piece of the bunch and a fine way to end the album. It almost feels as if it were originally written for Krypts or at least with a bit of classic Finnish death n’ gloom in mind without fully slithering unto doom.
There are yet too many smaller appreciable details that I cannot sensibly get to them all, such as the creep of the bass tone as it edges into certain key moments, emphasizing the riff heavy sections and expending the reach of atmospheric dirges when they do briefly lean in. It isn’t astonishing that Gorephilia sound luxuriously ‘old school’ yet nothing less than full-fledged and crushing on an album that I believe was self-recorded and then handed to Dan Lowndes (Resonance Sound) for a final render (master). The finishing touch of artwork via Raúl González brings the full experience, for my own taste, to the highest order of ‘modern’ old school death metal where the past is not imitated but revered with a full and complete vision for a work of pure death metal music. Count it among the best and most distinct within a steadily crowded year of death metal releases. A very high recommendation.
|TITLE:||In the Eye of Nothing|
|LABEL(S):||Dark Descent Records,|
Me Saco Un Ojo
|RELEASE DATE:||October 2nd, 2020|
|BUY & LISTEN:||Bandcamp [All Formats]|
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