ENCYRCLE – Deeper (2022)REVIEW

Exercising their right to die an honorable death beyond a slow and likely agonizing process of self-actualization southern Danish ex-thrashing heavy metal quintet Encyrcle grant us an unexpected shift in style and an admirably passionate, ascetic pouring of the self on this much anticipated swansong. ‘Deeper‘ should be treated as a penultimate statement on introspection, the mind’s palace cracked open by force and gored of its cosmic dread if only for the sake of taking a long stare into the artist eye, the essence of intimate consciousness in bittersweet revelry. In practical terms it is a daring, plaintive yet tuneful fusion of theatric speed-shot heavy metal, dramatic post-punk thrilled dark rock and hints of their vestigial interest in extremes. Consider it a corpse-flower in truth, a rare entity which makes itself known only to the curious and daring, willfully spreading its nox with an almost proud stench of death hanging in the air as it matures in mind.

Ten years is a good run, though, as Encyrcle formed circa 2012 between folks which various immediate backgrounds including members of death metal band Spectral Mortuary and speed metal band Phantomizer both of which had essentially called it quits around the same time. Within a few years they’d landed a solid speed/thrash metal debut long-player (‘Encyrcle‘, 2015) which’d been legitimately rad for its early Agent Steel-esque approach which’d lined up well with the interests of retro-thrashers and “NWOTHM” trendies alike but took the lyrical themes and songwriting a bit darker for those willing to lend them a full ear toward the darker cuts on Side B. We find precedence for the sound of ‘Deeper’ on songs like instrumental “Deathlust” and the epic “Black Dust” on that first LP but admittedly not much outside of a certain structural swoon within a ripping thrasher mindset. My notes for Encyrcle‘s more traditional heavy metal focused follow-up mLP (‘Burning Child‘, 2017) were summed as “Powerful and promising” more-or-less as they were finding their way after adding a new second guitarist in Ironguard‘s Mads Larsen and had well integrated new vocalist Philip Butler (Cruelty’s Heart, Pectora) for a very keep-it-true sort of epic heavy/late NWOBHM blend, stomping stuff with plenty of great leads. Valuable as this precedence is in understanding the history of the band there is no too-literal translation between past and present as we receive ‘Deeper‘ from a band who’d made their leap-forth in the shadows, so to speak.

Deeper‘ is a literal statement from the band in the sense that they’ve demanded more of themselves, approached this record aiming for a timeless profundity and they’re well justified in presenting this record as a deeper statement. Well, as a listener this’ll arrive in mind a bit deeper into the experience but to start the first impression is of course a sort of follow-up to the clever majesty of records like In Solitude‘s ‘Sister‘ wherein traditional heavy metal, speed/thrash metal, and some depressive rock/post-punk elements meld into noir cinema, grittiest defeatist self-examination. They’ve gone a bit further than that in unshackling the possibilities, incorporating everything from black album-era groove, dissonant piano hits, and escalating dual leads as “Atomic Cocoon” swells in introduction of opener “21st Century Tombstone”, the finer touch of main songwriter/drummer Anders Edalis already blooming in this grand entrance. Butler‘s vocals meet the challenge of this beautifully fleshed and dramatic sound up front, now confidently tuneful and directive from a central point with what I’d identified as double tracking techniques applied to his voice to give it unusual, haunting character. I’ll admit this was a point of pure mystification from the first listen, a surreal and inspired piece that has stuck with me since for its combination of sorrowful conversational style parlayed within dark rocking/heavy metal candor. There seems to be some personal revelation there which reveals within the greater thread of the album and I’d warmed to this quickly.

“The Tunnel” leads us on into despair, searching through the thunderous colonnade presented by extra percussive hits and an alluring tension which builds throughout the song only to be released by the spoken-sung harmonies en chorus. A brief piece smartly in passage which simply maintains momentum on a functional level, continuing the conversation and revelation of the leaps and bounds made since 2017. In fact, they’d finished this album back in 2019 having most of these breakthroughs in private as they’d developed beyond their previous EP. It is inspiring to think they’d stuck this chord just a couple of years later as you could easily find five years worth of work within the experience. “Serpent’s Son” is one of just a few obvious would’ve-been singles for the album with its memorable chorus and notable guitar work, a hook-filled and contemplative song with grand performative value that sustains the dwelling mood of Side A.

“Kraniedans” introduces the second half of the full-listen with equal bombast, a soaring yet sinister spell cast to open the second gate, which is frankly all about the absolutely brilliant “10,000 Years”. This is undoubtedly one of the finest songs Encyrcle wrote as a group and in some sense there is some cumulative outshining of what they’d done with speed metal in the past up front as they storm through the hall with its evil speed metal barging unto a stomping Voivod-esque heavy metal piece that breaks into its chorus once, the biggest and most gratifying hook on the album and they hit it once. I’d found this too brilliant as I’d listen to the whole record again for the sake of building up to this absolutely inspired peak moment. Of course they keep it going with the title track, which is the actual main event beyond the high dramatism of “10,000 Years” as the two pieces compliment each other in succession. There is a bit of Killing Joke, a bit of In Solitude, and some darker shade of depressive rock here at the heady peak of the experience yet they’ve avoided falsely maudlin or “gothic” metal intent distant from their purpose. The flow of this album must’ve been a huge point of concentration as each half bleeds into two great streams of consciousness, each song lands in an exact right placement in thread.

If this must be the final most potent essence of Encyrcle left to rot in mind then they’ve served a grand finale worth far, far more than their humble retro speed metal beginnings in ‘Deeper‘. Since we’d heard little more than potential for this level of expression in past releases it should very well be a shocking bolt from the blue what they’ve done here in death yet any fan of heavy metal’s dark and introspective realms should appreciate the drama-noir edge of this record immediately. ‘Deeper‘ should absolutely not die a digital-only release and deserves to be archived and appreciated for the fine, passionate work that it is. A very high recommendation.

(Very high recommendation. 88/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
RELEASE DATE:November 11th, 2022

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