Paean to Suffering: A Review of ÆVANGELIST’s “Writhes in the Murk”
Almost one year after unleashing the abominable Omen Ex Simulacra upon our meager human frailties, ÆVANGELIST have returned from their imprisonment deep within the aether, and like the ravenous Ogdru Jahad, they have once again laid claim to our souls and minds. You may remember my previous discussion of ÆVANGELIST as an otherworldly, eldritch horror dreamed of only within the most nightmarish cauldrons of our most tumultuous night terrors, but I doubt even my paltry attempts to describe the inexplicable have prepared you for the overwhelming and amoral terror that awaits.
Enter Writhes in the Murk. Like some twisted Nephilim, both accursed and blessed amongst men, the enigmatic beings responsible for the atrocity that is ÆVANGELIST, Matron Thorn and Ascaris, have put forth a mysterious, horrifying, and enthralling release. Lashing together the disparate elements of blackened bleakness, brutal death metal, glitchy, tortuous electronic chirps and buzzes, and demoniacal utterances of agony in the blackest alchemical rites, the cloaked acolytes of ÆVANGELIST have crafted the perfect Frankenstein’s monster of extreme music. ÆVANGELIST excel in creating sonic avalanches of noise that are both enthralling and nauseating. However, and I may be sealing my fate by uttering such blasphemy, Writhes in the Murk is significantly more accessible than Omen. It is difficult to discuss this album without comparing it to its predecessor, so I would strongly advise that you subject yourself to their previous effort before attempting to engage Writhes.
Similarly to Omen, all of the band’s trademark extra-dimensional brutality is intact. The signature infernal drums that hammer and batter like an alien siege engine still bludgeon your consciousness on every track. The tormented growls and demented banshee wails still sputter and skitter on the periphery. The heavy, chugging guitars still drag you deeper and deeper beneath the blackened tides. However, beneath all that extraterrestrial terror is a beating human heart, albeit one that seemingly made a Faustian pact for malevolent power and dominance. There is a breadth of emotion much more evident on this album than Omen. While the previous effort was an exercise in terror, Writhes drowns you a pool of mortal despair. The plaintive cries and samples that coalesce on every track (especially “Ælixir” and “Writhes in the Murk”) convey sorrow more than Omen ever did, as though the band captured the last breaths of victims choking on quicksand. The tone and overall atmosphere of the album is brooding and grim. If Omen was a portrait of the primal fear of our realm being invaded by a ruthless demigod, Writhes is the soundtrack to surrendering to the interlopers and the hopelessness that ensues.
A key feature in setting this album apart from the previous one is the production. The band has dropped the white noise further down in the mix and brought the guitar and drums to the fore. This gives Writhes the distinct quality of feeling more anchored in death metal than the band’s previous work and lends itself to the overall funereal emotion of the piece. The riffs on display here are bizarrely catchy, especially the doomed, ritualistic scales used in “Hosanna” and “Writhes in the Murk.” These sonic offerings, accented by the cascading and syncopated drum rhythms, latch onto your mind like an extraterrestrial parasite careening you further into a maelstrom of agony and ecstasy. But don’t for a second be fooled into believing that the band has abandoned their uniqueness. ÆVANGELIST once again conjure conflicting threads from various genres in the sonic canon, tying in unexpected and welcome progressions. Most notable is the plaintive saxophone that squeals and peels throughout “Ælixir” and the soft, ominous bell that clangs almost unadorned in “Disquiet.” These unexpected elements only lend themselves to the somber tone by providing you brief respites from the chaos before throwing you into Charybdis’ gaping maw yet again.
All in all, this album is simply a continuation of the tome of unholy punishment writ by our alien overlords ÆVANGELIST. The intelligible, even headbangable riffs are a welcome addition, and the new elements welded to the sound only heighten the singleness of this work. If I have one complaint with this album, it’s that my senses were less overwhelmed with terror than they were when I first heard Omen Ex Simulacra. Still, you cannot resist the captivating otherness of Writhes in the Murk.