The title of opening track “Damnum Minatum” refers to a legal term, used by inquisitors in the late Middle Ages, which describes a coincidental mishap or accident held as “evidence” that a person suspected of witchcraft had used magic to inflict harm. The five-minute aural assault from L.A.’s Deathstench explodes with malice aplenty: crisp, shredding harsh noise, punishing bass rumble, and reverberating scrapes of background static, accompanied by John Paul Whetzel’s echoing death growls and blackened guitar.
What Damnum Minatum promises, second offering “Temples of Dust” delivers. Guest vocalist Alan Dubin’s performance holds no surprises given his body of work (i.e. Gnaw, Khanate), but his tormented, caustic howls are the perfect unsettling complement to the rumbling, tempestuous drones and the distorted knells of Tibetan singing bowls and cymbals.
The two A-side tracks demonstrate some deft songwriting by co-conspirators Whetzel and Darea Plantin. Where the textures on many noise recordings have a tendency to blur into static, Deathstench weaves sonic chaos into coherent structures that remain dynamic throughout, shifting and recoiling with intense, chthonic momentum. The overall impression is of deep-rock drilling through subterranean caverns inhabited by unfathomable horrors.
Taking a more traditional approach to the art of audible darkness on the B-side, Thomas Ekelund’s Trepaneringsritualen invokes an earthier, atmospheric frame of mind with “Åkallan: Mímir.” Thick drones, ominous drums, and Ekelund’s guttural chanting scuttle and crawl through dense, muffled space for several minutes, until the listener is delivered to the climactic final act of this nearly 18-minute piece. The hypnotic elements reach their peak effect as distorted percussion sounds thrum like old machinery and a low, melodious dirge accompanies Ekelund’s voice, which has progressed from the simple chanted phrases and syllables of the first 10 minutes to lyrical, ritualistic verses.
In contrast to Death Stench’s heavy-machinery assault on cavernous depths, “Åkallan: Mímir” is the soundtrack to the dream of whatever lies in abyssal darkness as it listens to distant vibrations coming from above. Fans of Deutsch Nepal will appreciate its dark, psychedelic rites and warm analog sound, with a few samples and loops contibuted by fellow experimental acts Ättestupa and Æther.