Early yesterday morning, the Greater Inner Covenant of Mitochondrion and Auroch, masters of cavernous, dissonant Canadian death metal, released the long-awaited split In Cronian Hour via Dark Descent Records and Hellthrasher Productions. After at least three years of gestation in the bilious womb of a grotesque yonic abomination, will this split usher forth the end-times? Curious minds, inquire within!
The premise of In Cronian Hour is unique. Given a single lyric sheet, pertaining cryptically to an apocryphal reaping of gilded auguries, both bands were tasked with crafting a unique vision of the prophecy. The end product is remarkable both for bearing two distinct halves and for maintaining a stark, portentous unity. Although each band shares a core constituency of Shawn Hache (on guitars and vocals) and Sebastian Montesi (on bass and vocals), each is able to conjure a distinct voice proclaiming the lifting of the veil.
The split opens with Auroch’s track, “Leaden Words Sown.” This winding path of abruptly shifting time signatures and tempos is even more esoteric, and dare I say inaccessible, than the band’s typical fare. There’s a frenzy behind the pinch-laden riffs, commensurate blast beats, and all-encompassing vocals that few bands can muster. Distinct pitches and tones are used to assault listeners with tormented cries ranging from ghoulish growls to banshee shrieks, all while the drums adopt hermetic patterns diverging from the standard death metal formula. Over the course of the track’s relatively short (five-minute) run-time, I counted no less than three distinct shifts in the song’s structure, with the riffs permutating accordingly. As the track becomes even more chaotic and claustrophobic, the squeals and shrieks heighten, approaching a terrifying crescendo atop an accelerating drum pattern, only to burst through the floodgates around the 3:30 mark. After that, the band happily lays down their arcane implements of destruction, instead suspending the chaos within a vacuum of swirling noise and haunting vocal chants that acts as the transition into the Mitochondrion track.
If Auroch’s side was the frenzied voice crying out from the desert, Mitochondrion’s track, “Gilded Words Reaped,” is the cleansing fire that the voice forewarned. As befits their discography, Mitochondrion’s track is a far more hulking and weighty beast. Although there are still time changes, greater prominence is given to the discordant, Obscura-esque death metal riffs and pummeling double-bass. The riffs are tighter, more focused, and decidedly more pummeling, accented by the slightly more metallic sounding percussion. Mitochondrion lock into a more uniform, less chaotic approach, but they lose no malice in the process. In fact, the squealing leads and slight hints of layered guitar tracks lend even greater malice to the suffocating atmosphere. There may be less black geometry at work in the architecture, with less ramping intensity and rising chords, but there is no loss of ferocity. If I had to choose, I think I appreciate the slower, more shamanistic approach (given all the more heft by the throaty vocal work around the 4:45 mark behind the searing, gibbering lead) of this side of the split. If Auroch were the preamble to beleaguering devastation, Mitochondrion are the bereaving pain of loss and sorrow in its culmination.
“In Cronian Hour leaden words will be sown and gilded words will be reaped …”
In Cronian Hour stylistically breaks little new ground. If you’ve heard either of these most excellent death metal bands before, you know what to expect. These tracks are, however, quintessential embodiments of each band at their very best, and considering the unique concept from which this collaboration was birthed, the songs themselves stand as tall as anything penned in this style. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Colin Marston’s excellent production extracts every ounce of heaviness from the music possible while still retaining a spacious quality in the atmosphere. All considered, this split may not musically push this genre beyond its limits, but it does demonstrate the dizzying, vertigo-inducing heights to which cavernous, dissonant death metal can be taken.
You can purchase the album digitally right now over at Bandcamp, but if you want one of the excellent vinyl 7″ packages in either bone white or black, you’ll need to check Dark Descent Records here or here. While you’re under the arcane influence, go say “Iä! Iä!” to Auroch and Mitochondrion on Facebook.