CONCILIVM – A Monument in Darkness (2022)REVIEW

A cold, uncaring slab of granite-hard death noise direct from the overgrown, smoking crypts of Concepción, Chile takes its final chisel strike in creation of ‘A Monument in Darkness‘, a corrupted and bleakest-souled vision of classic death metal bludgeon forms meandering unto nihilistic skull-pitting assault. The horrifying nihil of Concilivm yet comes from an old, dead place as the duo are only just dawning upon their ideation of a death long romanticized by the sophisticated realm of peak semi-melodic death metal forms — an ancient left-handed path which manifests black-burnt, raw in ideology and attack. An unsettling, uncannily morbid intelligence honors the artform herein, straying from the populism of modern ‘old school’-minded death metal’s referential treatments and moshable refrains for the sake of a truly miserable yet blood-painterly depiction of the morose, bestial aspect of death metal.

Undoubtedly more on the cavernous and atmospheric death spectrum to start with their very quickly spawned and decidedly bestial debut EP (‘The Veiled Enigma‘, 2017) there’d been incontestable flashes of Swedish death metal’s earliest death-thrashing precision and the resultant melodic language of that same circa ’93 era of black/death conglomeration featured amongst Concilivm‘s clear interest in brutal Incantation gusts and excitable Bolt Thrower-isms to start. That first recording was far more complexly woven than I think it’d been given credit, a similar situation to that of Oraculum‘s underrated ‘Always Higher‘, and perhaps because of the somewhat homebrewed sound and not-so-hyped presentation of that original tape which hadn’t found its discerning ear ’til well into 2018 upon wider-spread release. They’d been the sort of band you’d want to keep in the back of your head due to likely side-project status, the sense that anything further to come will likely be the product of unhurried friendships and/or intermittent activities. It’d been an encouraging surprise to see the band arisen again in 2021 for the release of the first single for (eventual) album opener “Cryptic Asceticism”, a song which had actually debuted over a year ago last March, whetting consideration for their future craft but falling out of mind in the meantime. This, but to the point of personal lapse wherein I’d actually confused this band for a Portuguese black metal band with a similar name (Concilium, rather than Concilivm) when ‘A Monument in Darkness‘ finally arrived.

The first thing I’d noted about the duo’s debut upon delivery was how well it conveyed the sense of morbid darkness they’d so often espoused on their first tape, an occult and distinctly underground render that was, and is, brutally cold by design and delivered with a grating and cavernous appeal to the mental graveyard inhabited by the dark death metal attuned listener. That is to say that Concilivm present a provocatively cruel, uninviting death metal sound here to start and it comes across hate, hard as nails, and almost ‘blackened’ (see also: Adversarial) in some sense because of this. The drums in particular sound incredibly mean thanks to a steeled snare sound which adds a brutal touch to the controlled yet mildly chaotic hammering style of drummer/vocalist Ω. In an effort to accentuate this reality guitarist/bassist A., whom is best known as a key member of death-thrashers Vomit, has approached this album with a similarly serious, unforgiving approach to his riffing which presents a raw and bestial atmospheric value yet always manages to cut to the brutal edge of each riff as it develops, managing several physically violent moments along the way. The full listen is not pure hatred and bluntest battering but there is something to be said for a death metal band that sounds dead serious, unironic in their approach.

In spiraling down the staircase of graves, dust and spectral blade wielding spirits we find A.’s riffing begin to take deeper turns towards high-brained yet unpretentious riff command, most profoundly gearing “Of Gold and Silver” with an early Sentenced-esque (alternately: Unanimated‘s debut’) spark in its later third, eventually crawling into the call-and-response chromatic equalizations of Bolt Thrower-clobbered riffing. Aforementioned single and album opener “Cryptic Asceticism” had hit upon a similar verve in suggestion of its second-half progression alongside “Oneiric Abyss” shortly after yet we find the more profound instances of Concilivm grasping a very subtle edge of a rare breed of fine death metal rhythm guitar voicing in the second half of the record. That shouldn’t suggest that this is high brow stuff, and they certainly do devolve their rhythms for effect in many cases as the album bores its tunnel deeper still but only for the sake of a bestial death metal resonance which keeps the energy high and the atmosphere steeped in cadaverine soil.

When these two sides of the band collide they do their best work, a decent enough example not already mentioned being the initially clobbering bestial balk of “Maleficent Creation” and its thrashing black metallic leads, railing out a sort of John Carpenter-esque horror melody in the midst of the song. The title track is a bit more representative nearby the end of the album as it develops tremolo swells into statements which surround the steadied percussive brutality of the piece, finding their peak around the ~2:00 minute mark. Concilivm‘s work is yet never so cleverly technical or overwrought that they’ve lost their key murderous, ‘bestial’ atmosphere and this becomes a somewhat limiting form factor as they iterate in several middle-peaking compositions throughout the album, eventually finding a somewhat familiar point of peaking with closer “Archetype”.

The running order suffers from being front-loaded to some degree but there are no absolute throwaway pieces on ‘A Monument in Darkness‘, only a clear division between their most on-fire set of ideas and their more mechanical, brutalized personae once the listener becomes more familiar with their reap. This only works as a full listen because it has some precedence in development, or, evolution of their original sound on their debut EP wherein Concilivm have evolved to better recognize and showcase strong guitar ideas without sacrificing vital atmospheric dread. The beating served by the absolute violence of this record helps give this record an initially shocking energetic dose of morbidity and while this is satisfying enough the full listen suggests they’ve understood that action this callously bruised-out needs layers — be they ‘old school’ death metal riff progressions or semi-melodic stabbing throughout. It ended up being a far more thrilling event for my own taste because of the shadowy reveals of bright ideas interspersed throughout the full listen and this only ripened in mind upon repeat listens. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (85/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:A Monument in Darkness
LABEL(S):Iron Bonehead Productions
RELEASE DATE:April 8th, 2022

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