Review: Reptilian – Perennial Void Traverse

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Norway’s up and coming OSDM stars are set to release their debut in April. Let’s take a listen and enter the void.

Edged Circle Productions has some very choice words with which to describe Reptilian’s debut album Perennial Void Traverse. Even though the Norwegian four piece is a relative newcomer to the death metal scene, the press release seems hell-bent on dispelling any notion that inexperience comes along with the release of a debut album. Phrases like “fluid sense of mastery” and “warm, totally human analog tones” are peppered throughout the press release alongside moments of intense descriptive overindulgence. Although my real-world job is to manipulate language creatively, I came away from reading Reptilian’s press release overwhelmed with the descriptive excess.

Okay, but why am I writing about the press release? I have an album to discuss, damn it! Well, I mention the excessive nature of the writing therein because I think it does Perennial Void Traverse a disservice. Reptilian play a brand of semi off-kilter death metal that, while dynamic, is very meat and potatoes. To my mind, their riff-oriented approach does not necessarily match the description of the overwrought press release. Nonetheless, the band’s debut does in fact rip and tear in the right places while sticking to the old school death metal paradigm.

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Perennial Void Traverse is a close approximation of what I imagine a slightly thrashier Disembowelment fronted by Martin Van Drunen would sound like. The songs oscillate between meandering funeral doom slowness and frantic death-thrash riffs. At points, the transitions between these opposing riff styles can be jarring, but taken into consideration after multiple listens, the abrupt shifts in tone and speed seem to make sense as the album on the whole is a chaotic listening experience by its very nature.

As mentioned, the vocalist reminds me of young Martin Van Drunen greatly; the vocal likeness is uncanny. So, if part-screamed, part-howled, part-vomited vocals are not your thing, then be forewarned. The unhinged nature of the vocals complement the band’s equally unhinged and chaotic performance. Even as I write there is pure, chaotic malice dripping from my speakers, particularly as I listen to “Transmigration,” the final song on Perennial Void Traverse and one of the standout tracks. The band foregoes their regular excursions into thrash territory and opts to slow it down for the entire eight minute track, which allows them to bring some of the more off-kilter elements to the forefront of their meat-and-potatoes death metal. The guitars snake in and out of reverb drenched lines that reek of evil intent, while the space that opens up with the slower tempo allows the sickening Van Drunen-like vocals to really shine through the void maliciously.

If I may just make one comment on the production, I would draw attention to the lack of chaos and space in the actual sound design itself. One would think that an album traversing the void might indulge in a bit more reverb and huge, spacey ambiances. While the mix is certainly solid, with all the instrumentation taking up the right amount of space in the stereo field, I cannot help but feel a palpable lack of “hugeness,” especially in the drums. This is a minor complaint, but for someone looking to truly enter the vast, uncaring, echoing void, the production on display on Perennial Void Traverse just does not convey that sense as successfully as it could.

I may not be the biggest fan of old school death metal, but I can certainly appreciate Reptilian to a degree. They bring a brand of familiar, yet rock solid, doom by way of death and thrash to the table, and they throw it down with a frantic and unnerving sense of style. Their riffing may be a bit too familiar at times, but it is undeniably confident on Perennial Void Traverse, as it should be. I can definitely see Reptilian rising through today’s old school death metal echelon right up to the highest ranks. Until that moment, just jam Perennial Void Traverse and head-bang the shit out of your parents/loved ones/co-workers/enemies/pets/complete strangers.

3/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

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Perennial Void Traverse comes out on Edged Circle Productions on April 22nd

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