ÆNIGMATUM – Deconsecrate (2021)REVIEW

Whatever system teaches the opening of the higher consciousness should also teach the methods of its closing, for to keep the higher centres open all the time racks the brain-consciousness to pieces.” Dion Fortune, Sane Occultism

Shaken to pieces within contemplation of the chaotic self, departed and slithering alongside the straying-wild threads of senselessly anxious run-on revelry, the all-effacing nature of the daimon within manifests as if birthed from a smoke bomb plunged into a public toilet. Whirling tenebrous riddles meant to unbless and defile too-long settled ideation, the chthonic wiles of Portland, Oregon-based blackened progressive death metal quartet Ænigmatum mystify beyond all previously established function on this their second full-length album, ‘Deconsecrate‘. Suffice to say the standard upheld is world class, a collision of prime elements machined together beyond their shattering thread of speed and austerity by a great organic sub-genre weaver — Their tendrils are far too numerous to all be set within dry tradition yet a thousand angles face the cut of their gem-like marvel as if it were morphing from one pleasurably recognized vignette to the next, revealing different warmly familiar worlds within the slowly revolving kaleidoscopic death regalia flown.

We see what others do not see when looking past ourselves, beyond the categorizations and ideation attached to deeply elite traditions, the simplest eye is often more wise in view of an seemingly indeterminate beast. What notes were possible to gather between the formation of Ænigmatum in 2017, their first rehearsal reveal (‘Indoctrination of Mourning‘, 2018) and the fully-formed magick of their under-devoured (somehow still not on vinyl) self-titled debut full-length (‘Ænigmatum‘, 2019) indicated what I would consider impeccable taste in the highest standards of ‘elite’ melodic, expressive, avant-garde, progressive, and riff-heavy death metal. Of course if I’ve mentioned The Chasm, Anata, and Infinitum Obscure among others in review of any album, as I did for their debut, one could and should read between the lines that a higher reality were reached (or, implied) within the experience. These choices convey melodious and technical/progressive traditions built beyond what I’d see as the terra firma of early Atheist and At the Gates but when given preview of what was to come with ‘Adorned in Wrath‘ (2020) it’d been natural to consider the inspiring majesty of StarGazer and perhaps an iota of Augury-level finesse beyond previous observations. However these forms come to shape in your imagination so are they whirled expertly into a next generative state by Ænigmatum within ‘Deconsecrate’, wherein we find the band pushing their own limits for the sake of a unique voice that reads as if it were of known ancient origin.

Action beyond contemplation, contemplation beyond action. Right down the isthmus of the cortex, the commissural corpus of ‘Deconsecrate’ appears intentionally severed into two distinct halves Side A being the explosive, hair-raising reactivity of the assailing intellect and Side B the voluntarily brooding cerebrum’s mire, frothing in readiness for cyclic expurse. When enjoyed in two halves, left to repeat on an infinite loop the breaths afforded between elongated and demanding movements are fast and harrowingly deep, to the point of a light-headed, vexed delirium that cannot give way to focus until each piece and each arc is committed to memory. This is an indication of tireless work and repetition forging each of the eight pieces that make up ‘Deconsecrate’ and its demanding-yet-rewarding prog-death listen, it isn’t an easy record to pull a hair-raising chill or a swoon from to start but the cyclonic force of it all should be second nature to fans of a modern standard in progressive death metal. In this sense, we could maybe look to an album such as Sutrah‘s ‘Dune’ or the ahead of its time finesse of StarGazer‘s ‘The Scream That Tore the Sky’ for precedence as we are introduced to the singles released from Side A (“Forged From Bedlam“, “Disenthralled“) and soon realize just how hard it becomes to pin down any one such source as we press on; “Fracturing Proclivity” in particular is as much a window into ‘The Spell of Retribution’ as it is ‘Human’ and to be lost in this puzzle of forms quickly reveals Ænigmatum‘s own stupefying appeal beyond that point of realization — To parse their contraption with myriad known forms can only lead to an unsatisfying madness of semblances and instead the psychogenic properties of immersion ultimately prove a much more valuable point of focus, this is especially true as we geek into the intensity of Side B (“Animus Reflection“) where all coils are heated and fresh chords unleashed.

Speaking to past criticisms directly, are these songs still inherently too maze-like to read as tuneful or pleasurable listening? Yes and no, in fact the band’s name is perhaps the best indication of that being the damned point; To embrace the puzzlement of their thrill-woven semi-melodic threads rather than the heavy metal influenced tech-death band they might read as up front due to shades of some of the already well-enough mentioned bands vaguely bleeding into their avant-garde (yet never overstretched) reach into myriad sub-genre forms. Most would agree the production values are improved to an obsidian glassiness compared to the previous album, now even more prominently featuring the bass guitar performances from Brian Rush (Empyrean Fire, ex-Treasonist) which’d manage to hype my own sensibilities to a feverish drool up front and characterize the album thereafter. The prominent bass guitar tone and mind-palatial Ivory Crux artwork do naturally draw an ‘easy’ comparison to labelmates VoidCeremony’s ‘Entropic Reflections Continuum: Dimensional Unravel’ from last year but this ends up being tangential, a peripheral note due to the two bands sharing similar taste and some overlapping professional circles while ultimately expressing divergent execution. I’ve no real gripe, qualm, frustration or malaise arisen from my time with this album. It smokes.

There is no mistaking it in the moment or deep in reflection beyond each full listen, the crucial outcome of Ænigmatum‘s evolution is an unmistakably modern sound that retains its classicist taste level, never insulting the old gods but certainly not existing solely for the sake of their worship either. The ride is fracturing, imposing, tumultuous and violent but the sensation of our assured reassembly upon culmination ensures the shattering trip of ‘Deconsecrate’ is infinitely repeatable via its codon rich potential for expression. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (95/100)

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.
LABEL(S):20 Buck Spin
RELEASE DATE:August 13th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp | Store
GENRE(S):Death Metal,
Progressive Death Metal

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