Like it, love it or hate it, you can’t push play on the new Ævangelist full length and tell me your state of mind and overall experience of the world doesn’t instantly change. With a single piercing riff and the abrupt ringing out of a jangling, disharmonic harp, you’re drawn in. Now on their fourth album, Ævangelist are still, amazingly, finding new ways to wreak havoc upon the frail parapets that make up my sanity. Appropriately titled, Enthrall to the Void of Bliss comes across as the band’s most occult, engaging work to date with the seven cohesive tracks that make up its frame.
What we have here is one of those rare albums that appears every now and then that truly cannot be ignored. Some albums seize the spotlight, and Enthrall… comes across as one of those kinds of albums as second after second of mesmeric, meditative darkness passes during the engrossing introduction, before Ascaris’ grotesque, venomous vocalizations break the cycle of repetition alongside churning riffs, chilling synth, and percussive machinations that truly bring the listener into the fold that is Enthrall…
As towering riffs take center stage on “Arcanæ Manifestia,” you’ll notice that the jangling sounds of the harp are still present, still strangely accompanying the music from a distance, yet in a way completely apropos, serving as another unique lens through which to view the demented arena of abject horror known as the Abysscape; a place of unfathomable desolation where fervent faith meets madness, irreverent darkness, and sorrowful cries that go unheard – a place where sense and non-sense are as one, indistinguishable, united under the eternal gaze of the Abyssic Eye. And as this newly introduced instrument compliments and conveys its message of dread, the riffing mounts, and as it pulsates towards its crescendo, Ascaris reaches a crescendo of his own in the form of an undeniably impressive, crushing growl that rings out for some 40 seconds during the last minute. It’s made very clear on this opening track that Ævangelist are not fucking around, simple as that.
And the hits just keep coming.
The next track, “Cloister of the Temple of Death,” is another instant jaw-dropper with its breathtaking, awe-inspiring lead in that is nothing short of sublime. The flow of this song is simply orgasmic in nature, as each element of the composition seems to revolve around the seamless riff wizardry of Matron Thorn, who shows off his skills in a perfectly timed fashion with a subtle, well-placed lead around the three minute mark that absolutely shreds. From there, more great atmospherics follow, with Ascaris providing a more or less operatic, yet tortured, style of clean vocals that fits the feeling of the music rather well. With this monster of a track, you know that the impressive opener was no fluke: these guys are in complete service to their craft as the well of dark inspiration appears to flow freely through them with each masterful movement of this album.
You continue to sense this when the following track “Gatekeepers Scroll” begins, as you are swept up and away by an unmistakable concentration of dark energy before Ævangelist begin to pummel you with churning Death metal might, only to pull back 46 seconds into the song for a stunningly melodic, grandiose riff change of enigmatic evil that sucks you into this songs spell like a black hole. Utterly blown away by this moment, and all that’s already proceeded it, you’ll continue to lose your mind time and again as “Gatekeepers Scroll” sends you through an absolute ringer of riveting, soul crushing riffs and emotions that will infect your psyche for weeks to come.
“…souls like water…”
A phrase that’s uttered and repeated with growing intensity on the following movement entitled “Alchemy,” is one that I find of great interest from an occult perspective and also, perhaps, as a kind of metaphor for the album itself. Enthrall to the Void of Bliss is what it is not, and is not what it is or said another way: its arrangements are incredibly fluid, yet cohesive, firm, but not quite rigid – expertly crafted, but hardly just equations that could be easily mimicked, for there is something entirely natural and spontaneous about its movements. “Alchemy,” musically speaking, serves this idea as well within the framework of the album, giving the listener an unexpected, industrialized sounding breather with obscured, echoing spoken vocals with rather despondent guitar and bass lines in its background that leave you feeling meditative.
“Levitating Stones” then sweeps you up in its entrancing arms with a grandiose, mesmeric aura whose layers seem to build and build with each passing second, as Matron Thorns eerie guitar wanderings and twisting riffs corkscrew their way into your subconscious in a way that is given voice by Ascaris’ unforgettable, horrifying bouts of wailing and howling.
And that’s just the beginning.
“Emanation” picks you up off the canvas with a lone, dreary riff at its onset and some of the most malignant, disturbing vocals from Ascaris to date, as they almost defy explanation as to how he still has vocal chords after hearing second after second of choked, gurgled mayhem. As if his esophagus were being torn from his throat, this little slice of insanity is stomped out of existence with a full throttle explosion of blast beat driven fury around the 1:31 mark, but as the song plays out, the opening, mournful riff continues to ring out in the distance throughout its movements, featuring more outside the box vocals from Ascaris that showcase his range, his moods, and shifts in attitude from one moment to the next – sounds that could only emanate from a man utterly possessed.
Finally, “Meditation of Transcendental Evil,” the mammoth, 13 minute long closing track on this album abruptly begins, soaked with synth, demented saxophone meandering, distant paralyzing cries lost in darkness, and a guitar wailing idly like the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah before ultimate destruction. Almost a foreshadowing of what’s to come, this disturbing introduction gives way to the crushing prowess of Ævangelist as they hammer you one last time with an ode to unfathomable darkness, a ritual that encapsulates often incomprehensible reality that is metaphysical evil.
Winding to a close, the monstrosity that is Enthrall to the Void of Bliss concludes with the haunting, demented chimes of the harp; an unhinging reminder of what’s just passed, and of all that is to come with each passing day of slow, debilitating decay. While it must be said that Ævangelist expedites the process from the standpoint of mental stability, perhaps that is just what we we’ve needed all along – a psychological experience that strips us of all that we are, a life event that ends essentially ends the very concept of ourselves and ushers in the all-encompassing reality that is the void and the inevitable bliss that comes with nonexistence. Peer into the shadows and lose your mind for the last time in 2015, Ævangelist just cemented their legacy as a band apart in the world of extreme music.