What the desire to be happy means: suffering and the desire to escape. When I suffer […] I become attached to little pleasures. The nostalgia for salvation responds perhaps to the increase of suffering (or rather to the incapacity to bear it). The idea of salvation comes, I believe, from one whom suffering breaks apart.” Georges Bataille, The Inner Experience

Eye-catching tragedy worth rubbernecking and gawking over, an certain ugliest reality where our grotesque environmental doom and droning chaotic mentality are featured in such grand elaboration that they become too thrilling cinematic “trainwreck” to look away from, or, even if we temper these sensations down to the Svensk concept of “fulsnygg” as a pleasant aesthetic gleaned from that which is not traditionally beautiful — The grating nihilistic realization that what erodes us is what naturally appeals to our senses most is a mere scratch upon the spiraling viewscreen the ego-death has to offer when shattered, even if only temporarily, as a bittersweet elevation of the ‘self’ beyond primitive instinct. There’ll be no lasting satori gained from witnessing the (faster than expected) destruction and desiccation of anthropo-cinematic humanity yet the warped, moldering path on the way there promises to enlighten more than any potential struggle toward self-salvation. Suffering, the suicidal nature of humanity, and unfiltered reactivity to armageddon peeking its first grey plumes atop the horizon all fuel the long-distanced collaboration that is progressive melodic death metal duo Swelling Repulsion, who’ve channeled their own supernatural kinesthesis in creation of the fluidic burst that drives ‘The Severed Path‘ on its nine track, beauteous-yet-raw sojourn.

In the works since 2016 after a chance social media encounter between two musicians Swelling Repulsion is the co-meditation of guitarist, bassist and co-vocalist Dono (Ashes For the Mute) in Fort Collins, Colorado and drummer, co-vocalist Bage (Caged Grave, ex-Overpower) in Melbourne, Australia which aims for a raw, melodic and contained narrative within this relatively short debut full-length. Though I’m more prone to look to the past for precedent, finding early Caducity and late-90’s Gorguts as reasonable places to suss out this type of linearly driven but wildly vacillating experience, the best place to look for the jagged tech-death attacks and progressive ebbs beyond begins with the raw-yet-enlightened pulse of Horrendous‘ ‘Anareta‘ and perhaps more directly the dynamic shifts you’d expect from Artificial Brain starting with ‘Labyrinthine Constellation‘ but we lose sight of some of the raw and independent intent of Swelling Repulsion as a reactive beast when comparing their self-recorded and produced sound, which aims to balance a reality-based presentation of their performances at a high standard. Well, per that description do not go in expecting ‘The Luster of Pandemonium’, this is not “tech-death” per se but aiming for a strong skill level applied with purpose and feeling that always avoids machination or any sort of needled, maniacal precision. Perhaps the most surprising side note to my own examination here is that their first EP, ‘Dissociated‘ (self-released in late January of this year) was similar in appearance and still bears some distant ancestor of certain rhythmic ideas now appears generations behind what they’ve presented with ‘The Severed Path’. Choosing to handle the vocals themselves and focus on long-distance output has made for a stronger, more focused release here on the follow-up.

At a compacted ~25 minute run these nine tracks cannot help but overwhelm with their frequent shifts in tone and technique, ranging from finessed 3-4 minute prog-death brutality to 1-2 minute single channel guitar interludes but all of it bleeds together in a linear, largely downward-spiraling path. The adjacency of opening showpiece “Enslaved” and fusion-heavy “Shooting the Gap” makes good sense in succession yet the pieces themselves aren’t always linear in containment, often reading more like contrasting vignettes when out of phase with the full listen. Though I’d felt the length of the album was underwhelming at first glance, the density of ideas here quickly begins to demand repeated listening with scores of genius bits blowing by as the album wastes no time pressing on at an unruly pace. If anything ‘The Severed Path’ could use -more- repetition for the sake of an easier connection with the listener yet conceptually the idea begins to sink in that we are meant to be whisked along, herded from containment towards some meaningful emancipation from reality — Towards death or, in pursuit of the unknown. The peak of the ‘action’ is undoubtedly “Corridor” and “The Severed Path” two blazing, finger-wrecking pieces which come sandwiched between two meditative ‘Master of Reality’-esque finger picked interludes (“Labyrinth”, “Portal”) which juxtapose strongest emotional highs and lows as we pass through. Yet without “Unfathomable Depths” to tie the whole experience together the greater clear-headed vision of ‘The Severed Path’, and its cyclic value, would not be as apparent as it ends up being.

The more time spent with ‘The Severed Path’ the more I’d found myself eyeing it from both macro and microscopic levels and finding some reasonable significance in the whole apparatus no matter what angle I’d afforded it. Compacted as these frequently shifting ideas are, the tunnel-vision inducing immersion on offer makes for an unsettling, beauteous and perhaps occasionally challenging spin that notably stretches the limits of where progressive and melodic death metal signifiers can capably connect. Readable forms well-perturbed, rewritten by the ambition of these musicians wrangling their ideas far away from dry imitation and I’d undoubtedly been impressed each time I’d pick it up. They’ve got places to go with this sound, leaps and bounds to discover on their path forward but for now I find the resonance of Swelling Repulsion‘s debut album captivating. A high recommendation.

[NOTE: During the process of consideration for review, my own label Spirit Coffin Publishing has picked up the compact disc release of this album. So, of course for the sake of transparency you can take my recommendation with a grain of salt — It’d be the same recommendation either way. I liked their work enough to support it by putting it out myself, if that says anything.]

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:The Severed Path
RELEASE DATE:June 28th, 2021 [Digital]
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Progressive Death Metal,
Melodic Death Metal

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