δηλοῦν ψυχή — This terrain of theirs emerges from the basin mouth, cut by river valleys into saw-teeth which bite away at the manifestations of a well-challenged, wholly enriched mindset. Upland minded gloom-tones gather the very atmosphere of the valley in order to reflect upon the soul’s naturally irregular rhythms in revolt and reprisal, a tumultuous inner-aeon of constant change conglomerated. Emerging from a process of reduction and blooming return Oleśnica, Poland-based avant-psychedelic blackened post-metal quintet Entropia find their determination within the throes of experience and experimentation rather than seeking the comfort of an easy, unthinking identity. Their fourth full-length album ‘Total‘ intends to be the -result- of reflection rather than showcasing the process of — a complete statement of U.L.T.R.A. as a marriage of mind and soul in a distinct state of profound growth and station. Instead of taking the opportunity to hack together a maximal, outrageous circus of past lives these considerate fellows find the exact right form to muse upon the greater journey still in motion, a vast array of axons which connect their interest in experimental black metal medium, esoteric sludge fusion, psychedelia and fundamentally kosmische elemental movement. What results is a moon pool into a yet undiscovered depth for the band, once which rants on seeming forever within the heady thrills and swelling rhythmic tides of its own masterful state of wonderment.
Entropia formed as a quartet circa 2007 slowly working away at a style of atmospheric sludge metal tinged post-rock they’d developed over the course of a demo recording and an EP (‘Chimera‘, 2010) which’d not necessarily breached anything black metal related just yet. By the time the group had found a professional level of aptitude and managed an impressive production value their debut full-length ‘Vesper‘ (2013) managed to make waves as a record that was post-black metal in the sense that it fused post-rock/shoegaze impressionism and cinema into atmospheric black metal aesthetics and register, making for a contemplative and dramatic record which’d developed a somewhat typical post-metal voice which was very clear in its influence. That’ll have to be a very roundabout way of suggesting it was bland and typical of the post-black/blackgaze transition of the time, at least compared to groups that’d made bigger splashes around that time, such as Regarde les Hommes Tomber and Mord’a’Stigmata, who were doing a bit more to stand out in the post ‘Mammal‘ era of the difficult to define post-black niche. Though this is worth considering as a starting point that first record doesn’t indicate the more original conceptions of Entropia beyond, though we do feel some residue hanging in the drift of their more celebrated follow-up.
At this point we find the band getting a bit more serious with their own ideas, their own themes, and figuring the next step was not only a focus in their exploration but in crafting a wholly considered entity apart from the norm. At that point the post-black idea faded from their eyes and some color emerged with their second album, ‘Ufonaut‘ (2016), and this was a crucial turning point away from post-music trend towards distinction. Granted if you’d stumbled upon any black metal band interested in psychedelia in the mid-2010’s (and since) Oranssi Pazuzu practically flaps off the tongue by instinct and this’d been the reason I’d discovered Entropia, having been recommended their take on the ‘psychedelic black metal’ possibilities as a huge and very vocal fan of ‘Kosmonument‘. Of course this was something else entirely, a sweeping post-metallic style which probably had more spiritual connection with a record like ‘Pnuema‘ from Hail Spirit Noir. Here it seems the addition of second guitarist Kuba Cołta made very positive waves going forward and then-bassist Marek Ceńkar helped make it a substantial leap-forward sort of record and an introduction that’d stuck with me since.
The major goal of Entropia as a unit is made clear enough within their poetic imagery which reads as mantra arisen from psychedelic drug experience, qualifying their register as that of psychedelia proper: Art based on and perhaps made to enhance the entheogenic experience. Nowhere was this more clear than the underrated third full-length from the band, ‘Vacuum‘ (2018), which I’d given short review of in passing but eventually dove back into a couple of years later. My remarks at the time amounted to: “Modern and post-whatever as this Polish blackened post-metal band may seem, theirs is a unique and adventurous sound that feels connected in an intimate way as if they’d jammed together so often that they could anticipate every move and the compositions appear as a recording of their attempts to surprise each other with new vibes and line-up together with old tricks.” alongside some indication of krautrock While I would heartily recommend ‘Ufonaut‘ as the first step into major context it’ll be ‘Vacuum‘ which provides the hype of experience, the first major realization before we step into ‘Total‘ today which strongly defines the band as a psychḗ-enhancing experience.
We arrive upon the seed pod of the lotus fully revealed, wherein our protagonist find their “chill” and thrive in the delirium of centrally focused meditation. That is to say that Entropia have opted out of the increasingly extreme steps taken towards the peak aggression found on ‘Vacuum‘ and instead waltzed into ‘Total‘ with a different sort of confidence in their stride. There are aggressive turns taken, some confrontational guitar work and well-set blasted at sections where the drumming shines in tempered finesse (see: “Orbit”) but they’ve not attempted to push the limits of pace or attack here, at least not in the usual extreme metal minded sense. “Retox” opens the record conditionally suggesting a sea change with its ethereal synth drapery floating in the background and a thoughtfully wrangled set of guitars humming in and out of their exploratory phrasing. It is worth noting at this point that these opening moments still suggest a modern black-metallic affect, something as lush as ‘Rare Field Ceiling‘ but far more buttoned-up, leaning into their steadily hypnotic effect rather than challenging the droning mantra of it all with strikes of dissonance.
Where Entropia sees a convergence of progressivist post-extreme metallic chaos most will find beauteous burl, twisted yet lithe movements which resonate as curvaceous and directive flows… and this’ll be especially true as we steep within the idea that their broader-arcing representation of the complete self here on ‘Total‘ includes some post-black and/or shoegazing forms albeit rethought and removed of their maudlin saccharine trope. “Mania” does fine work rethinking that core rhythmic statement by way of persistent prog-black slow-motioned machine pulses while attaining the lovely harass of their step from ‘Vesper‘ through ‘Ufonaut‘, eventually working in their unique ear for otherworldly, atmospherically set synth in the final third of the piece. Not only does this incorporation of synth help to make each piece of ‘Total‘ attain some extra level of distinction but these moments consistently appear graceful in their accentuation rather than serving as a distractive interruption, a major difference from their traditional use in more rock-divulged avant-garde black metal exploration. ‘Total‘ feels not less, but perhaps even more moderne in its expression than Entropia have before and in this sense the band’s efforts reflect the moment, now, rather than a recollection of better days or past accomplishments.
“Orbit” was more-or-less the piece to catch my ear with the most immediacy and, well, certainly not as it floated in on its elliptically sauntering movement but as it intensified to a roar around ~five minutes in, crafting a sort of call-and-response riff motif that became an infectious node as I returned to the record for deeper listening. This is the sort of piece I’d tend to hit repeat on for its spiking moments but whenever I’d simply let it play on into the fifteen minute title track, “Total”, beyond that is where I’d felt the experiential value of the listening experience crossed a line from entertaining and profound statements in into an immersive step beyond, a moment where the ‘self’ is mastered yet not squarely defined. In more practical terms we find the recognizable effect of psychedelic music within a unique brew of progressive guitar exposition, synth veiled rapture and jog-paced barreling forth, a jammed steadiness which still feels related to post-metallic stature but not confined to it. In even more practical terms: They find a sublime, eerie groove and ride it to great effect. In fact, “Total” makes such a dramatically luminous statement as it peaks that hitting upon “Final” beyond it feels like slimily fighting my way out of a pod, kicking at elastic forms as I escape the warmth of gestation into a darker, more challenging place.
Well before you’ve reached the extended title track it’ll be clear enough that this is not an ‘elite’ black metal experience but rather one that will appeal to folks who’ve interest in both extreme variations on post-metal and progressive black metal guitar verbiage especially when writ to reflect the core interplay between two guitarists. This note leaves us in a difficult spot when attempting to “elevator pitch” this record to others, it isn’t exactly post-metal, not a typically psychedelic form of heavy music, not exactly post-black metal nor is it black metal (or prog-black) enough to sate the more traditional threads of those forms but fans of any (or all) of these things will inherently understand the greater verve of ‘Total‘ in patient witness. The congealed mass of Entropia is yet recognizable and effectively captivating in the moment unless you’ve gone in expecting an uptick in aggression beyond ‘Vacuum‘. I’d found the full listen of ‘Total‘ moderately challenging to start though ultimately fluid beyond the first one or two listens: The guitar work is especially fine in its long-stranded indulgence of complete and elaborate phrases, the performances are not weighed down or obscured by the atmospheric heft of the sound design but rather especially enhanced by it. Every part of this record fulfills this intense feeling of surreal yet ecstatic exploration of impermanence which is well-illustrated within the curation of the Zbigniew Bielak piece for the cover art. All points are considered yet not a second of this album tortures itself by way of the finer details. I’ve found this experience a rare balance found and a naturally impressive, escalating future-self to find Entropia wrapped up within ten years beyond their debut. A high recommendation.
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