Appearing from seemingly nowhere, like the Word itself, Irkallian Oracle immediately drew an audience with 2013’s seismic debut Grave Ekstasis, a mammoth slab of trance-inducing death worship that only got better with additional listens. It was and is that kind of album, and this simply is that kind of band, where if you’re not paying attention, their message could fly right over your head – but even then, something resonates in the unconscious mind that makes you want to hear it again and that thing, it could be said, is the Absolute Truth. “γνῶθι σεαυτόν”(or “Know Thyself”,) is what IK’s follow up album Apollyon proclaims and it is the inevitable transition from the illuminating darkness of its predecessor.
Indeed, Apollyon is, as described by the band, the experience of pure selfhood that comes after the descent into darkness and this plays out as much musically as it does thematically. For Apollyon even feels like a more full realization of the band, featuring songs that are less murky and more to the point, you might say. You’ll be hard pressed, for instance, not to immediately notice the A+ production, as each instrument (particularly the drums) sound absolutely perfect and can each be heard with complete clarity in relation to one another. That being said, this album is still very much a ritual and you get plenty of that vibe when “Reflections” kicks things off. The song wafts through at a relatively slow to mid pace with vocalizations varying in tonality and enunciation that really seem to drip and teem with a rapturous fury that finds its release on “Conjuring The Expulsed,” as it kicks off with a grand display of blastbeat-driven fury before reigning things back in with hellishly foreboding riffs and an ebb and flow that conjures ancient, antediluvian evil in its most purely grotesque of forms.
Apollyon comes out on March 31 via Nuclear War Now! Productions
It reaches an atmospheric climax around the 6:09 mark that carries the song out, leaving one with an indelibly dark impression and sense of unease that really sets you up well to be smacked around by the brilliance of “Apollyonic Enstasis,” a song whose mechanics are immediately captivating. My favorite track on the album, “Apollyonic Enstasis” is a juggernaut and the ultimate exaltation of the Self and the Will as it hits you with driving, active drumming that is always building and throbbing, churning riffs of might that combine to form a song truly grand in scale whose movements flow seamlessly and unfold with great endlessness. To call this track memorable would probably be an understatement.
But don’t blink: “Sol” kicks off with a mesmeric tide of riffs and atmosphere that will get your head rocking back and forth before seizing you by the throat around the 2:36 mark with the horrid truth of reality, as the atmospherics really ramp up here and set the stage for a slow, deliberate uptick in pace alongside spoken vocals hanging distant before reaching its iconoclastic conclusion. And speaking of things throaty, “Elemental Crucifixion” begins with deathly gasps before Irkallian Oracle kick things into gear with an onslaught of punishment, using their instruments to convey the unrelenting, immoral punch of eternity upon the beaten back of the soul and there is no kindness to be heard in the words of their front man, for his vocals exude a particular fierceness and menacing attitude not heard on the Apollyon theretofore.
But things do wind down gradually, and what you encounter is a section around the six minute mark that is a jarring mishmash of group chant and what seems to be raving, belligerent gibberish from the individual who first opened the song with his writhing gasps, and this strange display of intoxicating madness goes on for over a minute and a half; long enough to get lost, long enough to have your guard down – long enough to have your neck snapped in two at 7:34 when Irkallian Oracle exit delirium and re-enter the arena of torture with a blinding, voracious excursion to finish things out.
Hopefully at this point you’ve saved some strength for the colossal closing track, “At The Graveyard of Gods,” a nineteen minute long opus that is nothing short of captivating and utterly immersive; the kind of deep plunge into the abyss an album of this nature calls for and desperately needs in order to feel “finished” or “complete.” Sprawling in scope and deliberate in its delivery, “At The Graveyard of Gods” feels just like that, as all the punishment handed down results in infinite wisdom and perspective, so that the final blow of Apollyon achieves maximum impact. As the opening nine minutes play out it feels as though the pendulum of eternity you’ve been swinging on throughout the course of this affair is beginning to slow down as “…Graveyard…” maintains a meditative, slow to mid-tempo pace, but also seems to have these moments where its movements suddenly halt and subtly transition, much like a pendulum as it slows and seems to linger a little longer at its polls before swinging back.
Indeed, as Apollyon forges ahead, sometimes with great speed and might, it is ultimately slowing down and approaching its grand conclusion – the closing of the circle, the complete envelopment of all things held to be everlasting and eternal. It is quite fitting then that this closing track fades into nothing little by little with an eerie outro whose gravity can only be felt and appreciated by hearing all that has preceded it. It is the subtle sound of the Absolute Truth, the richness of Nothingness – the unaltered reflection of our true selves. Now, go forth: give Apollyon your steadfast attention, gaze into Nothingness, and see that it is Everything.