All fleshe is grasse — Wrathful iconoclasm by the hands of the displaced, forgotten and ignored grants no certain future beyond an immense, irreplaceable satiety. Showered by the dark poetry afforded the erudite non-believer, the will wages war with the persistent soul-containment enforced by monotheism’s dirging inoculation: Pathways to both heaven and hell amount dungeons when contemplated as eternal placement and soon this entrapment grants a purgatorial or, unsure nihilism — Void, apathy, and the defeated nightmare of nothingness is frightening to the empath, they who’d die before resigning to inert existence. Though I cannot say whether or not there is freedom or damnation found upon the conclusion of ‘Defacement‘, the self-titled sophomore full-length album from Netherlands-based atmospheric blackened dissonant death metal project Defacement, but I can say that the journey is that of pure mental miasma, a cloudy and ruinous exploration of the individual ‘self’ out of step with common purpose and meaning.
Who could resist the inspiration of early second wave Scandinavian black metal and its apeiron of variation? The core duo whom comprise Defacement today began their exploration of the sub-genre with Deathcrush in 2012, a project whose name should certainly speak for itself long before you jump on their ‘Evoke the Ancient Curse‘ (2016) debut, which is a blast. We posit this starting point for vocalist/bassist Ahmed and guitarist Khalil for the sake of perspective set upon their interesting journey from Benghazi, Libya to Ukraine (as students, I believe?) and eventually Utrecht, Netherlands where Defacement was formed as a side-project. This is a necessary point to make if only for the sake of not framing the project as an also-ran or trendy display, the juxtaposition should indicate that the core duo’s intent is instead an entirely different outlet away from the constraint of second wave conformity wherein exploration of modern forms allows for more than nostalgia. The band would officially form in 2019 and soon include Italian drummer Mark Bestia (Earth and Pillars) for their their debut full-length (‘Deviant‘, 2019) which released digitally in early January of that year with almost no information included. Fine cover art, plenty of unspoken mystery, and a rare take on dissonant black/death metal hit the right chord and surely deserved the notice it’d gotten at the time. With that said it was a succinct and complete enough thought that thrilled as a singularity of unknown character, but where could they possibly go with that sound?
The most honest answer I could give is probably straight up “Nowhere necessary.” since that first release was sound enough in terms of concept and voice, if not somewhat rhythmically under-developed. My overall impression of ‘Defacement’ is that it is either iteration by necessity of progression, or, an intentional direct follow-up to ‘Deviant’ as Defacement build a steady narrative within their larger discography. A self-titled record tends to be the defining moment or, an key point of self-distinction for an artist yet to my ear the shift towards regular atmospheric interludes and slightly different voicing isn’t so drastic. That isn’t to say the format hasn’t improved, though. The production/render is more stylized unto a blurry and chaotic warmth, the performances are more sharply tuned to evoke a contemplative state of awe and defiance, but the major note here is that four of the eight pieces on ‘Defacement’ are instrumental tracks (“Limbo” parts I-IV) which introduce and reinforce their focus on elements of atmospheric black metal’s more sentimental realm without going full on blackgaze or post-metal. Modern black metal artistry typically provides a clear sense of dark and light tendency applied to these sort of pieces, yet we find these folks presenting a solar alignment during these shimmering interludes while the bulk of ‘Defacement’ is nonetheless a dank and ruthless chasm of avant-garde ringing dread and cold self-examination. Tough these inter-strewn pieces are satisfyingly surreal, I’d consider them slightly typical in voice just yet.
I’m not so sure how much value there is in my own examination of the turbulence presented by the arrangements themselves but, I will say the the scene is set and the lyrics quite well conveyed in simpatico within these four 7-10 minute compositions across the board — You won’t miss the regular curve of the action which is most often a loft of flight followed by terrifying careening into abysm as it plays but, sure, the deeper rhythmic nuance might take some time to extrapolate. We find ourselves at the crux of it within “Disavowed”, a piece that is entirely fitting illustration of one’s damnation by God and rejection from the respite of heaven as it clobbers the ear within the last third of the song, a relentlessly angst-spawned firestorm of existential anxiety and violent aggression. This note of vitriol, or the prime level of dejection into chaos found throughout the album now arises only at opportune times, primarily whenever an opportunity for bigger riff progressions presents itself in place with the lyric poetry provided; These ‘dissonant’ thunder-scrawls do their best to be the key extreme within a broader-set dynamism expressed throughout ‘Defacement’, they are also generally more elaborate and directive than those found on ‘Deviant’. This is Defacement at their most engaging and it is natural to assume that the rhythm guitar work was the major focus from the start. That said, were it not for the strong contrast of the devastated, soul-searching ambiance of intermezzo or, divertimento of the “Limbo” vignettes it might all be a scattered, formless blur of harassment (not a bad thing for this niche, mind you). I am grateful for the easing moments of ‘Defacement’, the ability to breathe enables a different experience than most post-Portal/Deathspell Omega-borne notions of atmospheric ferality.
A simple dynamic thrill from a “biggest picture” perspective, the greater descent-in-waves movement of the full listen successfully generates an atmosphere apropos for a tormented yet willfully idealistic soul facing damnation, a unique standpoint for what is essentially post-extreme metal gilded outlier to start. Beauty and brutality itself isn’t such an abnormal juxtaposition but the intensity of Defacement‘s heaviest moments presents a deepest extreme we might expect from earlier Altarage or even Hissing to some degree but the biblical buoyancy afforded their post-black metal tinges begin to resemble distinct signature movement for a band whom are not making any too sudden movements away from their core extreme metal appeal otherwise. Can we consider this a ‘safe’ release? No, not by any reasonable stretch of the mind but it does make sense to frame ‘Defacement’ as an outlier seeking a post-metal level of tragedian emotional connection with the listener, a meditation upon existential sorrow and a life spent out of place with both humanity and their cruel, falsity-braying godheads. Though we are seemingly left in a pit of despair, we are never resigned to foulest apathy and this builds a personal enough narrative that I’d found ‘Defacement’ notably resonant and depth-ridden. A high recommendation.
|LABEL(S):||I, Voidhanger Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||September 3rd, 2021|
|BUY & LISTEN:||Bandcamp|
Dissonant Black/Death Metal,
Atmospheric Death Metal
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