GEVURAH – Gehinnom (2022)REVIEW

A halo of redness beaming, the left arm twisted behind, and the siphoning purpose of man posited as due misericordia. There is no gate, no psychopomp and no keeper scrawling upon endless scrolls of admission at the end of this sojourn. What deity allows the earning of gifts on his magnanimous behalf does so providing struggle as reward for existence, punishment by grand showing of natural forces, as any true strength achieved comes through his energies. — A fight for what has been withheld ensues. Falling deeper still the feeble, sightless realism of mankind within the knowing illustrations of Montreal, Québec-borne black metal duo Gevurah intimidates as they stride us through the blazing-lit residue of a four year path of propitiation in Gehenna. In the Luciferian tumult of ‘Gehinnom‘ death, dissolve and bleakest nihil are desirous symptom of the inevitable transformation of flesh, a sign that resurrection is impending and transcendence achievable through such impossibly wielded craft.

Formed in 2010 between X.T. (Sanctvs, Oriflamme, Tehom Productions) and guitarist/bassist A.L. with the intention of presenting what I’ve perceived as Luciferian spirituality embedded in apex black metal traditions, Gevurah would introduce themselves with a rehearsal grade yet generally unblemished formative demo (‘Anno MMXI‘, 2011) to start. The guitar work was the major obsession of this early work, an important feature in reaching for the standard of their main influences which would find a lot of fans comparing them to Aosoth and various groups from Swedish, French, and Icelandic circles with similar zealous mindset, though any real notice arguably came with the far more capable aggression of the ‘Necheshirion‘ mLP in 2013. Like many others I’d first encountered the band’s work when ‘Hallelujah!‘ released in 2016, an album which was perceived and appreciated as a standard-bearer, a deeply thoughtful and eccentric personage in this particular realm of captivating, severe black metal craft. While the sound of that first album (and ‘Gehinnom‘ for that matter) will be recognizable as somewhere within the lineage of what people consider ‘orthodox’ black metal idyll, the arrangements and rhythmic influences were especially adept, inspirational pieces like “Un Feu Indomptable” still remain memorable for their swaying movement and terror-stoking vocals. We’d discovered the confrontational glory of the band at that point, having achieved some manner of signature in the midst of their debut full-length but it was the ‘Sulphur Soul‘ (2018) mLP that’d achieve the artists own ideal rendering for a release worthy of consideration as serious as that of an full-length, with “Black Sun Thaumiel” sustaining the high water mark for the band in approach of ‘Gehinnom‘.

216. — Less a wilding search through an expanse and more of an intentioned scourged through barren realms with ascetic purpose ‘Gehinnom‘ might not rest in bowed worship as often as ‘Hallelujah!‘ yet it sustains the principles of strong guitar work and ever-evolving obsessive compositions which have thus far characterized the spiritual mechanism of their music. Though it won’t read as intentionally separate from the greater phenomena of the listening experience the rhythm guitar remains a vital point of speech for Gevurah, if we can suppose some influence from the doggedly mayhemic ‘orthodox’ black metal sine waves this work will be readable from a distance as accomplished, professional and ready to reach beyond competency to the point of virtuosic expressive ability. The rhythmic focus of the full listen has its own sense of melodic rather than chaotic weave, whirling under readable and incensed rants for most verse sections of prime-featured songs. Atmospheric stretches, largely devotional and/or hymnal in the deepest pockets of presentation achieve brutal yet rarely punctuation-bound attack, arriving with the technical acumen of more recent works from Ascension, Akrotheism and Drastus in hand. The nuance available to this work benefits greatly from a render devised between X.T.‘s own engineering and pristine mastering from Studio Emissary. Though the guitar work is appreciably acrobatic throughout the full listen it doesn’t read as the only point of obsessive thought of the greater presentation but one dynamic actor within an inhospitable ocean of choking sand.

“At the Orient of Eden” is naturally the revelation to build upon, a serpentine melody etched into mind from the first strike and elaborately braided into the downward-pressing burst of the drums, which are precise yet far from mechanical in their clobbering rain upon the middle-upper register of the mix. Vocals press in equally diagonal rant, less harried and hoarse than the previous two releases as to present enough force to qualify next to the rhythm section. This becomes a practice in levitation soon enough as the monastic, throat-sung expression at ~3:30pm backs a croaking sermon under breath. If nothing else ‘Gehinnom‘ has made sure a completely rounded salvo greets the skull with a well-aimed kick, the sort of song that outdoes expectations set by a proposed follow-up to ‘Hallelujah!‘ and sets the bar for experiential quality very high to start. “Blood-Soaked Katabasis” is the big audio-visual transgression herein and one that appreciably stuns with its visuals, the song itself emphasizes X.T.‘s style of drumming which to my ear has some appreciation for death metal buried deep in its trade of irrationally battered blasts and double-bass precision without leaving the plausible realm of possibilities for this style of music. I’d become a fan of his drumming within a very different but equally fitting performance (‘L’égide ardente‘) last year, so it is impressive to see not only the leap beyond 2016-2018 but also some mastery being achieved in every peripheral recess.

Sublimation of their passions. — Not the first but arguably the most profoundly memorable edifice climbed on the first half of ‘Gehinnom‘ comes with the peak of Side A, “Towards the Shifting Sands”, wherein the sand-blasted dissolution of the protagonists will becomes welcome, surreal in its hallucinatory swelling and barking stride. The vocal performances are still adding to their repertoire even on the fourth piece in alongside the guitar work, both voices intensifying into almost theatric reveal as spoken reasoning and burning melodic forge achieve heated conversation with the listener. In terms of the lead guitar work, or the directive techniques which shape the pressing will of the piece, this is perhaps the one point where a comparison to Sinmara or nearby would be reasonable enough. At this point I’d been forced to reflect upon the trip as one very much in motion, illustrating a long walk which challenges the physical and then mental fortitudes of the envisioned. This contrasts strongly with the present yet often stationed feeling of past Gevurah releases, where the rhythm section insists that we press on (see: “Memento, Homo….”) through two more mountainous pieces which offer increased monastic chant, cathedral-sized summons in increasing flashes of searing light. The record essentially explodes in all directions for its final twenty minutes between the last two songs and, I suppose the work is too fine to attempt to do any justice in brief detail. The important notion to takeaway with is that ‘Gehinnom‘ pushes the ear along with a demanding sort of asceticism building a wall of resolve, the necessary stamina to truly feel the revelation of Luciferian light at the final crest of the experience.

In plainest (as possible) terms, we have the modern highest standard for black metal as I see it achieved within this recording. A rare occurrence in general which comes from an artist who has demanded improvement, set wide their vision, and produced both brilliant artistic curation of the physical item as well as detailed meaning within each aspect of the music be it lyrical narrative or the greater curvature of the listening experience otherwise. We do not get a complete paradigm shift away from these highest standards, the signature is here but largely resolved in smaller details which aggrandize over time (such as the use of melody in passage). Gevurah deserve great praise for the undeniable immerse available, a strengthening of the devotee in glorification of the morning star — a rewarding feat which only seems to have built layers of meaning beyond the initial rush of sacrosanct interpretation. Then again, if you are just showing up for cool album art and an apex black metal record there is no shame in appreciating ‘Gehinnom‘ for the taxing yet pleasurable storm of lūx that it creates. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (91/100)

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Profound Lore Records,
End All Life Productions
RELEASE DATE:October 14th, 2022

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