Our ziggurat to Ashur collapsed into a fiery cone of melting bodies, tunneling their molten sludge of flesh to the Great Below — Away from a city that could no longer sustain its unimaginative leaders and their brutal thirst for the war god’s power, the souls and culture of the infamously (but rather typical of the era) murderous Assyrian Empire have for time immortal sat in the dark of their afterlife as their opponent’s kin and historians dictated that their spirituality were splattered with red paint and named bloody. Two thousand gods, all functional personifications of nature and the observed characteristics of humanity invoked and anthropomorphized via regional representation and tribute yet the capital was named for war, their mascot was war, and their leaders said to be direct conduits to the war god. When the empire would burn into ruin by way of Babylonian-flung fire in the seventh century many would argue the fall of this villainous Biblical civilization was already inevitable due to long-pressing drought and deserved after a long history of civil war had already weakened the people beyond the pale. If the Akkadian cuneiform in description of devastation, “šahrartu” were ever used practically in capturing the scene of a great civilization burned to the ground it were then and there. So, why would the curiously anonymous Belarusian technical death metal trio of Eximperituserqethhzebibšiptugakkathšulweliarzaxułum (or, mercifully Eximperitus) adopt this word as title for their second blast of traditionally indecipherable and verbose mélange of occulto-cryptic ancient languages? ‘Šahrartu‘ is perhaps meant to begin with a much needed ego death as we approach a series of six stanza-sized chapters within a greater theme of the structured “self” as consciousness. Before birth or, genesis, there must be some cataclysmic event to wipe the slate clean and the end result is always death.

You can’t just throw a bunch of cool words in front of me without spurring on some manner of frenzied investigation and well, I’d admittedly spent far, far too much time gleaning the basic symbolism of this album as I flipped through through Sumerian dictionaries, Neo-Assyrian to English approximated translations, and Eximperitus‘ blending of ancient Arabic language with some core Vedic concepts. Though we are all somewhat familiar with Sumerian words and their meanings through the osmotic transmissions that extreme metal allows via band names (Absu, Marduk, Ereshkigal, etc.) and such, it is an entire ‘nother plain of study to pull auld contextual spirituality from a realm of fairly fuzzy historical interpretation. ‘Šahrartu’ is intended as an relic aged tragedy with six distinct movements, each of which I’ve absorbed to form eleven line stanzas within a greater ‘epic’ aimed at the human life cycle and perhaps death as a certain transcendental state. Devastation of the “self”, genesis of creation, defiance in existence, exhaustion, extinction, and finally emptiness all accumulate to form what I’d seen as a wide lens upon the futility of existence and I guess a chance for Eximperitus to flex their technical muscle under a slightly more serious, sensical notion. Does this lightening of their deeply encrypted, wordy modus of the past help to convey the musical value of the piece? Yes, the bigger takeaway here is that these Minsk-based musicians have scaled back their lyrics to coincide with a major change to their increasingly dynamic atmospheric brutal/technical death metal sound.

Whether or not you’ll hear the ancestral voices of ancient Mesopotamian warrior souls or a blend of influential 2000’s brutal and technical death metal bands when listening to ‘Šahrartu’ is a matter of perspective. Likely raised on the lo-fi brutal death metal underground clobber of the early 2000’s “second generation” sound the first (‘Triumpho Tenebrarum In Profundis Mors‘, 2011) and second (‘Promo 2013‘, 2013) demos from Eximperitus have a clear foundation in mind where brutal/technical death metal’s groove oriented and bounding rhythms speak to the Nile-adjacent aggression of bands like Anata or Spawn of Possession circa 2003, where a mind for ‘old school’ death metal was still in line but pushed to a dry extreme. The band’s debut album *deep breath* (‘Prajecyrujučy Sinhuliarnaje Wypramieńwańnie Daktryny Absaliutnaha J Usiopahłynaĺnaha Zła Skroź Šaścihrannuju Pryzmu Sîn​-​Ahhī​-​Erība Na Hipierpawierchniu Zadyjakaĺnaha Kaŭčęha Zasnawaĺnikaŭ Kosmatęchničnaha Ordęna Palieakantakta​.​.​.‘, 2016) might’ve had a lot of listeners assuming the band was a gimmick group taking cues from wild and maniacal groups like !T.O.O.H.!, Lykathea Aflame/Appalling Spawn, or the maniac tech-deathgrind of bands like Watchmaker but the reality of the Eximperitus‘ sound had more directly in common with those group’s influences (again) pointing towards Nile‘s technical peak and rhythmic voicing alongside the mania of the underrated early discography from Kataklysm. As striking as this claustrophobia inducing hammer of an album was, it was not at all accessible or up to the general standards of 2016, providing enlightened movements via a very broken and boxed-in archaic sound. This must’ve been clear enough as they’d find enlightenment on their follow-up EP (‘W2246​-​0526‘, 2017) which most will still note the production was rough but despite the static grind it was a step into greater clarity for the guitar performances; The drums? A horrifying thumping terror that is nigh unlistenable to this day. Nonetheless it was clear Eximperitus had some sort of a breakthrough that’d lead them towards sessions for a second album around ~2019. Tempering their production values away from abrasion, enhancing the progressive and atmospheric paradigm shift experienced earlier (see: “Deshret”) and finding their path into the future via dynamic structural feats would directly result in the effective style of technical deathmetal that ‘Šahrartu’ brings, now sitting quite well next to other Willowtip artists such as Gigan, Mithras, and especially Ulcerate. I wouldn’t suggest Eximperitus matches the technical and/or energetic reaches of each band suggested but that the greater movement here suggests a certain level of resplendent atmospheric pulse in addition to their attack, which is tempered away from all out brutality for the sake of the experience having some weight and room to breathe.

I’ve emphasized the atmospheric aspect of the full listen with good reason. As engaging as some of the riffs and rhythms might be most of these ideas are developed as motif within the slower, meditative expanses of the album. This is a fairly new development for the songwriters and I can imagine it has been a rough balance to cast considering their first album was essentially a monodirectional corridor of brutality. If you’d discovered Ulcerate‘s ‘Stare Into Death and Be Still’ through end of the year lists like so many others no doubt you’ll find some methodical kinship in the bigger picture of ‘Šahrartu’ where sweeping, lightly melodic and lead-driven movements float atop brutal rhythmic churning compositions which are often shapeless in nature until you’ve been able to absorb the entire rhythmic statement of the piece. This will prove a hurtle to flop over for some as the experience may prove unremarkable in reflection but exciting in the moment without evolving within several listens. On the other hand if you are patient as I am there may or may not be a broader revelation here where the theme actually suits the the sludgy, plodding death metal hammer that Eximperitus have brought to this second record. The most important note here is this notion of three or four motif which are presented up front as the title track is both a lead-in and a bit of a study guide for where the greater verve of the album will build its repeatability from. From devastation we reach what I’ve interpreted (via Vedic Buddhism or Jainism) to mean the origin or genesis (the opposite of voidness) via the second piece “Utpāda”, here the groove and blast feeling of the record wastes no time in creation of crucial surrealism through its distinct rhythmic voice. I am personally a huge fan of this sort of brutal-yet-atmospheric approach which you might find in smaller doses from Auroch and perhaps because each band has some direct influence from (again) Nile. This is even more readily apparent as we duck into “Tahâdu” which could be interpreted in a few ways: The defiance of existence, the “challenge” of authority, or the state of being (“thusness”) in general depending what point of view one approaches the title. I leaned towards a sensation of defiance simply because this is an aggressive, energizing piece that expands the barreling double-bass punched roll of the previous song into something far more destructive. As we reach the third piece of this album two things become apparent: We are leading up to a bigger event and the album thus far has expressed as one larger piece rather than several distinct pieces.

“Anhūtu” is Neo-Assyrian for tiredness, or dilapidation over time and I’d taken this to infer some measure of civilization decline, inciting some interest in the fall of Sumerian cultures due to their own reckless warrior mindset. This sense that a ‘kill or be killed’ foreign policy only sets a time limit on a civilization was my own personal takeaway but in the context of this record’s unifying statement we see the ailing spirit collapsing under the weight of the cosmos. Er, practically speaking it is one of two extended pieces that generate the “payoff” from the build-up to this point earlier on. Rolling into its 8+ minutes with a sleepy warp-riffed consciousness means “Anhūtu” provides the major “trip” of the full listen to start, utilizing various studio and practical effects to weave interest into its mid-paced jogging grind. “Inqirāḍ” is ancient Arabic for extinction or what I’d found some would refer to as a “festival of extinction”, this is perhaps a poor translation or interpretation that sounds like a crust punk album name but in terms of Eximperitus‘ vision it is the major high point of the full listen, a ~10 minute piece that threatens doom and delivers psychedelic horror riffing and sludgy mayhemic peaks. We find subtly repeated melodic ideas throughout the full album as those earlier mentioned motif repeat with some elaboration of their inherent scale. Here I’ve pushed beyond any initial comparisons to other bands and begin to see the larger voice of this record speaking most clearly. The staccato brutality suggested is only implied and in fact ‘Šahrartu’ might be brutal and technical to some degree the tempo map aims for complex generation of atmosphere rather than density, around thirty percent the density of ideas compared to Eximperitus‘ prior record. Finally, and I apologize for the track-by-track, “Rīqūtu” directly translates as emptiness or, when channeled through personal philosophical devices a void left behind upon death.

The full listen is undoubtedly entertaining but perhaps somewhat easy to reduce in reflection as often as we see the “from birth to death” sensation within existential death metal records the great success in the hands of Eximperitus is thier ability to deliver this while honing their sound to a point of focus that doesn’t disrupt their core rhythmic personality, only dials up the dynamic space-faring quality of their groove. Does it take more than one of those nuclear weaponized effects-soaked (later) Sarpanitum-esque leads in “Utpāda” to keep me engaged for the whole thing? Admittedly no, I’m easy to entertain in the throes of a spaced-out tech death record and this one is so neatly set in my own mind palace that I’d actually had to resist the flow state it induced for the sake of focusing on some sort of analysis along the way. Without lyrics and some time to digest the theme of the album into personal meaning I’d found the concept was too cryptic in language for its own good, at this point it’d be more extreme for the band to simply offer their ideas openly rather than exist as some untranslated tablet in the middle of the desert. Then again, I’m guessing I’ve arrived upon the point and missed it for the sake of making my own. The gears are turning and I am grateful for it plus hey, that is probably the most stunning Pär Olofsson artwork since ‘Ystyr‘. Despite having spent far too many hours with this record I’m not yet sure where it’ll land and you can discern for yourself if that speaks to the amorphous, tension building nature of the work or to the stymied meaning applied to it. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Willowtip Records
RELEASE DATE:January 29th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Technical Death Metal,
Atmospheric Death Metal

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