DARVAZA – Ascending Into Perdition (2022)REVIEW

Their numbers choke the dwelling, fighting for view and earshot of sacrifice amongst murmur-drowned screams. An uncomplicated ritual enacted for the sake of bloodying the air within the temple, calling back a great coiling and poisonous ‘God‘ to his throne of death. A brilliantly inverted envisioning of the pure black metal experience, this debut full-length from Italian-Norwegian black metal duo Darvaza catches the ear and hooks in mind for the sake of its properly overstated reception of damnation, a rapturous reaction in catalyst of the eternal dark upon man and inevitable cessation of light. ‘Ascending Into Perdition‘ does not mock but cajoles the false unto their natural state of sycophantic torment, dooming the skull from ear-to-ear with pleasure.

Darvaza formed in 2015 as a creation of Italian-borne musician Omega, whom has been reputably consistent among black metal drummers for the last few decades having featured in Italian projects Handful of Hate and Frostmoon Eclipse as well as stellarly records from Nocternity and Acherontas before committing to Blut Aus Nord‘s circle. There aren’t a load of black metal drummers capable of steady live performance on such a level, much less they who’d orchestrate several of their own projects, all of which tend towards worthy action. Fides Inversa, Nubivagant, and (the now ceased) Enepsigos are arguably his best known projects from recent years yet Darvaza is the elusive lier in wait. This maturation is highly anticipated partially due to the connection made with Wraath (also of Fides Inversa), a key agent in Trondheim’s One Tail, One Head and Celestial Bloodshed, as well has the dormant Behexen. Both fellowes are likely most recognizable for their performances, most of which are rare and carefully curated events depending on the project, at European black metal attuned festivals/gatherings. I don’t mention this all for the sake of posturing someone else’s resume(s) as illustration of present worth but, to recommend two large bodies of work which justify some of the excitement surrounding this release. Their prior releases help, also.

The Downward Descent‘ (2015) was more than an initial seed or demonstration but a full album by today’s shrinking standards for long-player status, more importantly it was a tempestuous first statement from a project which appeared to have mutilated the face of black metal classicism, an alternative for overstated orthodoxy. I am a huge fan of Wraath‘s unhindered and always inspired vocals, particularly his work on Beyond Man‘s self-titled debut last year, and the major hook for my own taste in getting the first few EP releases from Darvaza lie in some up front appreciation of his vocal performances; Their third EP (‘Darkness in Turmoil‘, 2018) did a fine job of illustrating these traits with some immediacy while also providing some rhythmic precedence for the somewhat stripped back and spontaneous venom of ‘Ascending Into Perdition‘, I’d suggest “A New Sun” in particular sets up expectation for where the album found its greatest jumping off point.

Though these pieces are elaborate, sophisticated in their development and leaning into ~6-8 minute average lengths, they are performed in a particular slow-burnt reveal which activates a part of my teenager-era brain when sitting with ‘Ascending to Perdition‘ as it kicks along somewhat like Gorgoroth‘s first two albums, specifically ‘Pentagram‘, to start. It is a mid-paced yet intensely focused sort of hypnosis aided by double-bass kicked up rock beats — You might find a song like “Drømmer Om Død” a bit campy today with its late 80’s sounding drum production but there is a certain similarly barbarian enlightenment achieved on parts of this Darvaza record. Side A probably illustrates this best between opener “Mother of Harlots” and “Mouth of the Dragon” but of course there are several generations of precedence otherwise, bones which are better picked from the grave of One Tail, One Head to some degree.

“The Spear and the Tumult” is a major feature on the album up front and should be the piece to immerse, or, make available the rhythmic hypnosis intended for the abnormally focused listener. A simple droning rhythm becomes hallucinatory chasm of concrete-resonant leads and far-distant echoing shouts as the piece dirges forward, the momentum of the guitar work is thrilling enough with consideration for performance but the shadow sermon delivered within said vortex creates a sort of cross-pollinated reverberation, a strangely meshing sensation leaking from Longinus’ bladed tip. From that point the spectacle of the album is a bit more apparent, centered around rhythms selected for their physical impact, the body high of repetition and even a few hits of the punk-rotten collapse that kicks off “This Hungry Triumphant Darkness”, arguably the most bestial of the lot here and the one to catch the ear of folks who’d ever heard a hint of d-beat in earliest Katharsis. It wasn’t the first song to pull me away from other tasks to refocus upon ‘Ascending into Perdition‘ but it was demanding enough a cut that I’d soon found myself spinning the record on repeat, ‘tranced more than expected.

Wraath‘s vocals feature a fairly broad range of expression throughout the full listen but the last two pieces are where he is granted the most room. This is important because expanding upon the ideas set forth on the latter half of ‘The Downward Descent‘ was a fundamental point of interest from my perspective. “The Second Woe” is where this largely takes place, reprising the tunneling shouts heard nearby the second track but this time with the droning of the piece slowed to a Quorthonian stomp beset by longer phrases. As is the case with much of the album the ideas are fairly simple at face value but feature worming guitar melodies and crucial atmosphere which glues the ear to the record for its full ~44 minute run. “Silence in Heaven” is the grand finale, the payoff for all of the attentive listening given the rotation in the form of an anthemic charging sensation, a warrior’s descent and as we hit nearby the ~4:00 minute mark the vocals I’ve been going on about reach a point of illumination which I’d found especially dramatic. The pieces which err towards the ~9 minute length seem to carry the most impact on the full listen but were this just 3-4 pieces it’d probably have felt daunting, or the songs themselves less fixed in statement.

Darvaza have both met and exceeded expectations herein, striking up some unintended nostalgia along the way on my part. As a fan of their first EP I’d felt they made good on the promise of earlier releases with a worthwhile full-length that is both representative of their previous explorations while also pushing beyond the gates. ‘Ascending Into Perdition‘ may or may not ripen with iteration beyond, they’d not have to change a thing to pull my interest in again but I am interested to hear what comes next. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (79/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
Info:
ARTIST:DARVAZA
TITLE:Ascending Into Perdition
LABEL(S):Terratur Possession
RELEASE DATE:February 4th, 2022

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