LVCIFYRE – The Broken Seal (2021)REVIEW

From the sputtering mouth of pestilential abysm leaks the still whetted tongues of countless beheaded bestial ‘Gods’, their lashing movement summoned to strangle loose the socketed delusion of comfort shared betwixt this weakest generational swine. They breathe death’s words of worship like fire and leave us a hollowed corpse to inhabit, freed of purpose-void civilization and debrided of all but the last opportunistic fading embers of survival. Nine hymnals to beasts that’d offer us paradigm away from serfdom outside of the natural order, this third full-length album from London, England-based blackened death metal trio Lvcifyre muses upon the destructive forces necessary to sustain the unbalanced and ever tipping motion of existence, a dark and hateful spiraling reality. Applied with great physical force and an angled approach all their own, ‘The Broken Seal‘ shatters the already bristling psyche of us endtyme husks by invocation of terrifying agents of apocalyptic change and in doing so they unleash a thunderous, calculated din which now cements their brutal legacy.

Formed in 2007 several years after moving to London to find like-minded artists the origins of Gdynia, Poland-borne artist T. Kaos (Death Like Mass) set him in mind as one of few memorable black metal composers to arise from the Baltic in the mid-to-late 90’s, specifically concerning his work in Hödur. We can consider this the a formative spark that’d later lead to singularity but there are some structural features on ‘Salve Satanas’ which remain timeless facets of his guitar technique. The key pivot point which’d lead to the birth of Lvcifyre appears to be the artist’s integration into the black/death metal cult of Adorior, a project whose membership has included in its ranks they whom we could consider key figures within the very best British death metal (by way of expats) on offer these last twenty years. For an intrepid artist with strong fealty to the classics of elite black and death metal mindset the broadened palette offered by these like-minded artists seems to have been a stymying abundance, a plethora of possibilities that’d long had the core sound and purpose of Lvcifyre too restless to settle into one explosive groove. Thus far the result has birthed from a molten core of classic death metal and taken this brutal kinetic standard to a point of glass-spraying, fire spewing extreme fluidic duress.

The core Mark II trio of T. Kaos, drummer Menthor (Bestia Arcana, Nightbringer) and bassist Cvltvs that’d solidified beyond 2010 provide steady progress we can study closely to corroborate the carefully developed span of the last decade plus starting with the more traditional thrashing motions of United States/Polish death metal advent taken to their still tasteful extremes on ‘The Calling Depths‘ (2011), thinking along the lines of Angelcorpse or Azarath roughly, brutal third revised extensions of Morbid Angel and Deicide‘s basal forms. From my point of view we did not hear the dark soul of Lvcifyre until the release of their second album (‘Svn Eater‘, 2014) which I personally remember quite well because I’d bought it alongside the second Lie in Ruins record, it’d been a big year for these sort of molten blackened death records which weren’t all that “blackened” in hindsight beyond their elaborate song structures and longform ‘Unholy Cult’-esque dramatism. This was a next level for their craft and even a cursory comparison of any two pieces from those two albums will speak to this revelation. I drive towards this point with some purpose as I’d like to figure why it took another seven years (excusing the fact that they were in Italy recording the album right as our world exited the pre-pandemic age) to take the next step; It won’t likely be clear until you’ve sat with ‘The Broken Seal’ for several hours and contrasted the past with the present, there was some immense personal pressure from the artist that this record ‘counted’ and meant something beyond iteration upon their molten core. To consider the third Lvcifyre album a success via their own high standards for the artform, an equally potent echelon needed to be reached.

This is where the ‘Sacrament‘ EP comes in, actually, circa 2019 as somewhat of a freeing event and a conceptual approach that’d found the band not missing a beat while they’d unloaded the burden of time’s passage and plowed on toward ‘The Broken Seal’. In the time since the EP’s release my appreciation for its style and slightly more ‘black metal’ production value has only grown, building up some expectation for what this next record would be. You’d think that their striking right into this album, which was written more or less from the same pool of thought and action, would suggest it were more of that same scorched earth but this wouldn’t be the most accurate description of it. You can feel the weight of each choice made as the full listen blasts through its neatly set ~44 minute run, not only the molten physical slash of their incredible guitar tone and the pummel of it all in ruinous and pulverizing sync but the stylistic fold therein suggests this must be the definitive Lvcifyre album, cognizant of the past and glowing with the resonance of a highest stage of growth and purpose. The slow build to high praise is necessary here because ‘The Broken Seal’ is just as thrilling and decisive a step forward for the band as ‘Svn Eater’ was back in 2014 but we now witness the decided-upon signature that should comfortably define where they’ve been at their best and further suggest a uniquely inspired trajectory of interest. In this sense it is a massive success, and as a goddamned death metal record it is an intensely listenable diabolic force.

In short — The whole of ‘The Broken Seal’ has refined previously set standards for precision and dynamically realized statement thanks to improved bass guitar tone/presence, thunder-brutal drum capture/performance, and a slight pull-back on the esoteric atmospheric surrealism of ‘Sacrament’. Much of this notably hinges on the spectacular ferocity of the guitar work and the directive vocal patternation adjacent but the rhythm section always stepping above standard in action makes for a truly impressive, repeatable full listen. For these mythic viewings of apocalyptic bestiary the artwork counts quite a bit via a gorgeously realized painting from Daniele Valeriani alongside elaborate visual design otherwise. The complete package demands that both the eye and the ear not treat its presence like fodder or passable fare, but an thrillingly realized point of greatness. Credit to Lvcifyre for demanding top tier death metal standards of themselves in 2021 with no excuses in tow, Hell they’d recorded this album in Milan of all places right when pandemia hit the globe (and tragically that area) first. With that said, we can yet speak to the band’s ever-present strengths in crafting stylized collision between the highest standards of old death metal classics, brutal ‘modern’ standards for percussive heft, and their own blurring of the lines between elaborate “occult” black metal atmospheric generation and the soul-burning savagery of pure death metal. The emanation from the act of ‘The Broken Seal’ in motion is that of evil unleashed and a beautiful decimation witnessed, it should not be taken as anything less than a meeting of the highest standard today.

As for the listening experience, we see the mastery of two forms hybridized to the point of their own burl and enacted as an adrenaline-sped attack from the first moments of opener “Gods Await Us”. The first thing I’d noticed is the guitar tone which helps to capture the harmonic intensity of the performance itself by dialing back the soak of distortion and creating a textural, technique-dependent roar. You’ll note that I’ve probably written “brutal” at least ten times thus far and this physical beating provided by Lvcifyre is a major selling point for my own taste, not only as “dangerous” and extreme music but for their impressive use of this as momentum for the development of rhythmic ideas which surge about in great swells of elaborately constructed riff. There isn’t a piece on ‘The Broken Seal’ that doesn’t whip out the blast hammer for intensity but the important thing here is that they’ve used violence unsparingly as a key part of their greater performative statement but not belligerently to the point of mental dryness. What’d piqued my ear on introductory listens was an initial exploration of palm-muted textural riffing as we lead up to “Headless Rite”, the first piece to use outright blunt phrasing to capture the cavern-shattering thunder of ‘Gateways to Annihilation’-era Morbid Angel and coil it into their own ball-lightning strike, of which we find a more advanced reprisal later on “The First Archon”. For my own taste this was an arresting moment that’d prompted a few repeats of the song, we find moments like this on each album from Lvcifyre but in this case an emboldened vision steps into new territory which is not only crushingly set but memorably achieved. Here we begin to dig between the ribs toward the long-whittled freest heart of ‘The Broken Seal’, the sign of an artist pushed forward by their own escalating standard.

If this all begins to sound like a record you’ve heard several hundred times hold to consider the increasingly expressed touches of maniac first wave/speed metal influence we find on a few standout tracks herein. “The Wolf of the Great Dark” being the first piece to shine with a bit of Satanic speed metal flair in its solos and key riff movement and, perhaps more directly, “Black Mass” speaks to this side of Lvcifyre via its major rhythmic statement and rasped accompaniment. Consider it an arcane heavy metallic mood or a a few well-placed flourishes, either way the claw of the ancient daimon that has guided T. Kaos since his years of plugging away at the mid-to-late 90’s Polish black metal scene is neither forgotten nor concealed within the greater alchemy of ‘The Broken Seal’. One of many minor points of distinction that glom within the greater experience to produce an impressive and imposing death metal record. The experience surely doesn’t necessitate such elaborate accolades as it speaks well enough for itself within moments of induction and captivates throughout but, the enthusiasm it conjures within me should has not been taken for granted. ‘The Broken Seal’ is the next echelon of Lvcifyre‘s reality breached and fully realized, it should rightfully be considered their defining statement thus far thanks to the impossibly high standards achieved within every element of its realization. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
TITLE:The Broken Seal
LABEL(S):Dark Descent Records,
Norma Evangelium Diaboli
RELEASE DATE:September 10th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Death Metal,
Blackened Death Metal

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