TITHE – Inverse Rapture (2023)REVIEW

Antisocial behavior being very well studied as a perpetual phenomenon, persisting at a common rate even when divorced from the ever-tightening strictures of human society, only intensifies over time within the sociopath. There is no chance to mellow with age, or, to level out into a self-regulated need for mayhem, all must escalate for those afflicted with a deep set and unflinching rage reserved for humanity. Portland, Oregon-based psychedelic sludged black-deathgrind trio Tithe would see the limits on inhumane acts of brutality escalate with every step taken thus far as they reach a point of maniacal, brutal obfuscation on this second full-length album. ‘Inverse Rapture‘ appears to see no absolution for its intensified outward-bursting darkness but instead stabs forth in harried, unpredictable increments of violence in seeking some manner of ascension from the hellish, hallucinatory catacomb from where they’d birthed.

Tithe formed between guitarist/vocalist Matt Eiseman (Infinite Waste, ex-Drouth) and drummer Kevin Swartz (Lord Dying) assumedly after migrating back to their native PNW circa ~2017, adding Damon Kelly (Stoneburner) on bass to round out the original line-up who’d soon release a substantial mLP (‘Tithe‘, 2017) that same year. I’d gotten the sense that these folks aren’t the sort to force a stylistic concept so much as write pieces representative of those involved, their particular tastes and strengths as performers, so, there wasn’t this “we are blackened deathgrind/atmosludge” affront on that first release so much as all of those things gunked together in an impressive way from the start. Kelly was replaced by Alex Huddleston (World of Lies, ex-Sabateur) on bass in 2018 and a couple of years later their debut full-length (‘Penance‘, 2020) released via avant-garde/sludge label Tartarus Records, and I suppose you could tell I was still figuring out exactly what their deal was when I’d reviewed the album. The key phrase from that review was “No doubt Tithe show up prepared on this debut and although I found some of their choices irksome, all manner of their efforts lead to a memorable listening experience.” As we approach their third album I can first suggest that the stuff that’d bugged me (the immersion breaking use of voice samples, clips) no longer impede the infuriated, psychotic dread of their sound on this deeper-blackened third album.

Inverse Rapture‘ incorporates the forlorn cacophony of modern black metal influences into Tithe‘s general deathgrind/sludge metal admixture making for a blustering, decidedly extreme and obscurant experience compared to the wrathful, manic yet readable pallor of ‘Penance‘. It might make more sense to consider it a blackened grind record to start yet the textural force of the rhythm guitars still has a prominent sludge tic in hand when it comes time to pick through the stringy guts of the riffs. “Parasite” is arguably the point on the full listen where we start to have to include the “death” portion of black/deathgrind into the conversation since the riffs giving this song its propulsion constitute a third limb, or, a clear step is taken beyond the Lord Mantis comparisons folks will want to throw at this record at face value. Otherwise dissonant black metal guitar techniques have now been well incorporated into each piece on the record (see: “Inverse Rapture“) without feeling like the entire purpose of any one song.

The exciting thing about ‘Inverse Rapture‘ to start is this maddened sense of irrational movement which emerges in a non-clinical yet still grindcore infused stance, a certain basal level of rhythmic feel that comes from a series of ranting jammed-on ideas more likely to have come from a rehearsal space than huddled around a computer. Tithe‘s compositions had typically been buttoned up in a sludge metal sort of manner on prior releases, punkish in their grinding search for patternation yet conscious of the rhythmic frustration available to black and death metal, here they’ve made a machine gun of their action and begin to draw outside of the lines in dark strokes which feel feral, unhinged and obscured for the sake of conveying mental disarray, disillusionment. There are yet a few “black-death High on Fire” moments here and there, particularly “Killing Tree” and “Pseudologia Fantastica” which play around with different chord voicings. This isn’t at all a detractor from my point of view as these parts only help this half hour record feel robust and experiential despite its blindered, tunneling intensity throughout.

Tithe appear equally comfortable on their shortest strikes at the mud (“Demon”, “Pseudologia Fantastica”) as they do on the longest pieces on the album and in this sense their fission of taste doesn’t offer clear-cut expectations of density in terms of how many ideas they might pack into any particular song length. This makes for an album that appears as a corridor of doors in a sanitarium, many of those rooms might swing open to interject in various modes of violence yet never fully impede the determined path forward. It is a short yet relentless ride which packs enough rhythmic detail to keep the sludge-adjacent extreme metal listener engaged for multiple listens while likely being more of a brief fixation for a black metal obsessive. A moderately high recommendation.

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