HERETICAL SECT – Rapturous Flesh Consumed (2020)REVIEW

Kachina crafted to personify Ahul, his afterlife, the sun, and the freedom the skies eternally promise — Five knots unbound on a lash of rope, one for each day they count down towards impending revolt. The 17th century saw the death of the tragic play, the uprising of some of modern philosophy’s greatest influences, and the earliest signs that the scars left by hundreds of years of Catholic inquisition and embattlement with Rome had taught Spanish conquistadors pages and pages of lessons on most effective enslavement of their manifest destined annexations. Cultures were dismantled by verdict of death wherever the bloody church would land and between genocide, brutal slavery, and spread of illness the Spanish Empire eventually plagued the continent to the tune of tens of millions of deaths. Tribes indigenous to todays New Mexico territory were enslaved for three generations throughout the 1600’s, their actual lineage and sub-divisions spreading across the greater southwest since ~500 BCE. To be ruled over by corrupt and often murderous Fray (friars, or “padre”) in service to the Spanish Empire and well, the Catholic church was brutal enough for these famously peaceful folk of the “four corners” but it was the total decimation and outlaw of their own “idols” and prayer-heavy Hopi religious practices that drove Puebloans, along with Apache and mestizo forces, toward revolt. I preface the themes of Santa Fe, New Mexico-based blackened death/doom metal quartet Heretical Sect with the build-up towards the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, wherein the Spanish were successfully ousted for over a decade as their churches burned, their aquifers dismantled, and their priests hanged. The anonymous band’s debut full-length album ‘Rapturous Flesh Consumed‘ doesn’t envision the metastasis of the Catholic empire’s evil as a whole but rather posits one symptom of this relentlessly spreading (literal and figuratively speaking) disease by focusing on one infamous example of brutality towards the Hopi people by the hand and deranged mind of fray Salvador de Guerra. The documentation of him flaying a man with a whip twice in one day, reopening fresh wounds deep enough to have bloodied his entire body before drenching him in boiling turpentine ’til death is the most commonly reported catalyst for his inhumanity yet we know this wasn’t enough for the Madrid enforced investigation and trial into the clergyman, it took (somehow) even more serious abuses to end this one source of violent oppression. Entering this horrifying man’s mind in an attempt to elucidate the murderous power that human history has allowed the religious to justify for seeming eternity is a brutal-yet-fitting mental exercise to align with the severity of modern United States blackened death metal. However dissonant this might sound in description, it works.

There is some considerable reverence for the indigenous people of New Mexico in not attempting to recreate their musical, or general audio-visual heritage here on ‘Rapturous Flesh Consumed’ beyond subtle symbolism in album art from Zac Scheinbaum which implies this’ll be something quite different, certainly some manner of morbid musical ritual. As I currently sit upon land that was taken by force from indigenous peoples roughly a hundred years after these events, I can relate to the point of view Heretical Sect arrive upon here where conveying this one layer of many devastating threads of cultural genocide isn’t a matter of glorification but an acknowledgment of dire truths with a finger pointed directly toward all forms of Abrahamic religion as the major evil perpetuated against all life, the most consistent enabler of “sin” throughout its historical reign of corruption. Alright man, chill out, eh? They got any riffs? Hey, actually that’d probably have been a less compelling introduction but these guys feature members of Superstition and Predatory Light while working with a member of Dysphotic for the engineering and rendering process so, I suppose if you’re in the know with regards to these projects you can safely assume they’ve not only got riffs but a real gift for utilizing atmospheric space. The world created within Heretical Sect‘s debut EP ‘Rotting Cosmic Grief‘ feels entirely distant today, an album that’d indicated the primal connection shared between mid-paced non Scandinavian early second wave black metal and death/doom metal’s emergent connection to black metal guitar techniques arisen in the last decade or so. Complex as that might sound tied together, the result was basically something like Negative Plane if they’d detoured into some classic doom metal riffing, found the creepiest pocket of Hell possible and lived there within it. Or, back in 2019 I’d loosely compared ’em to Head of the Demon and Ysigim due to the slinking sense of progression in their riffhouse. Today ‘Rapturous Flesh Consumed’ leans into a fullest, electrically charged form of black/death metal that still approaches the extreme doom metal spectrum with reverence but with far fewer nods to traditional doom metal riffs.

Of the six songs on this album I’d say the three longest are the most successful for the sake of their heavier diving into atmospheric doom metal guitar work. “Baptismal Rot and Ash” is essentially the first taste of this as it unravels slowly within an otherwise very active nigh 11 minute run. This is vital entry yet “Degradation Temple” and “Ritual Inversion” likewise convey this blackened death/doom metal methodology in a slightly more balanced compositional form and, for my own taste, these are the strongest pieces on the album as well as the most personality rich achievements therein. I suppose what I’m ultimately getting at, slowly, is that you can probably guess who wrote the guitar parts on this album if you’re a big fan of Predatory Light or, if that doesn’t play out to be true, the atmosphere achieved between these six songs waxes and wanes its ambitious threads of blackened wandering doom in a captivating and appreciably cavernous palette of hard-flung aggression and ominous mystère. As with the EP what sticks in the mind upon reflection is most often the atmospheric black/death metal guitar tone and its more sweeping doom metal influenced riffing but there are a few peaks of activity within the longer songs that reveals quite readable lyrics, you should be able to discern some of the more declarative narrative points as the pop up as they’ll be unmissable with any serious engagement of the vocalist’s work. Due to these openings in the clouds, so to speak, there is some moderate sense of The Ruins of Beverast‘s own storm since 2009 or so where barreling leads to billowing plumes and revelatory segments. Common movements among certain sects of German and Finnish death metal bands but rare otherwise. Of course in this case the songs Heretical Sect writes are contained pieces that are more economical with their black metal tirades.

When looking back upon my experiences with Heretical Sect thus far I am impressed at the accumulation of theme, the advanced render of this record, and the mostly clear musical point of view conveyed on ‘Rapturous Flesh Consumed’. My notes would evolve from questioning where the obvious payoff was between the lyrical themes and the musical directive of the band before I’d figure that’d been too presumptuous. It isn’t an album solely about the oppression of native New Mexico peoples throughout history but an eye of truth gazing upon all of similar history in conveyance of uproarious disgust; This allows a modern extremist reaction to auld lamentable history and that ends up being a strongest virtue of the group, even in hindsight. Otherwise I’d found this record accessible within the context of their other projects but also different enough that Heretical Sect could expand in all manner of directions (funeral doom, black/thrash, etc.) and still feel separate from associated bands. The final question I’d found myself asking around the tenth listen amounted to whether or not they’d landed a bit safely on this first album for the sake of it being a debut, leaving it more of a blank slate as to not commit in any one sub-genre direction too closely. I’m still on the fence about this observation, as it risks taking for granted the sizable movements made from the EP unto this record. Nonetheless I am impressed by ‘Rapturous Flesh Consumed’, particularly the pieces that stretch into the 6-10 minute range for the sake of atmospheric development and a slower pace. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (78/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Rapturous Flesh Consumed
LABEL(S):Gilead Media [Digital, LP]
Redefining Darkness [CD]
RELEASE DATE:December 11th, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [Gilead]
GENRE(S):Blackened Death/Doom Metal,
Black/Death Metal,
Death/Doom Metal

Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:

Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.