The city of Montreal has a darkness growing within in it. A ghastly, icy-cold beast that hungers to cover the land in eternal darkness. A profane, sacrilegious cabal going under the moniker Spectral Wound. In all honesty, Canada has always gotten a bad rap here in the United States. The more educated of us look to the north and see a country that has their shit together way more than we do. Yet, a vast majority brush them aside as our more timid little sibling. Even in the Metal/Hardcore scene, we tend to not really pay attention to what’s going on right across the border. Which is a damn shame, considering that Canada has produced some rather intensely pissed off bands over the years. Ire, The Black Hand, Union of Uranus, Le Kraken and now this demonic entity known as Spectral Wound, who have just unearthed their terrifying, almost flawless first release entitled Terra Nullius.
With a few quick hits of the snare drum, Spectral Wound break out of their frozen tomb with the song “Under A Purple Moon.” My initial reaction to this was how heavily influenced by Finnish masters of heresy Sargeist they were. In fact, I had to do a double take to make sure that I wasn’t listening to Let the Devil In by accident. The comparison drawn between those two is absolutely meant as a firm nod of approval on my end, so hopefully that won’t deter any of you animals from checking this out. Spectral Wound play a voracious take on Black Metal. One that is seeped in atmosphere without the heavy use of keyboards or operatic elements. Their initial sonic declaration with this song is grim, evil and drenched in unrefined disgust for our world. But even with their heavy leaning towards the Finnish style of Black Metal, they’ve managed to take it and twist out their own take and identity, a fact that comes into play the further one delves into this release.
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“A Wilder Rot” and “Winter Light” find the band exploring a more static, noisy side to their assault. Both songs have roots within their initial take on this often worn-out style of metal. However, both tracks sneak into a more sinister realm than what I had anticipated as they both progressed. Like a doppelganger summoned forth from the second edition of Dungeons and Dragons, they twist and contort their form and sound. it would have been one thing to just copy and paste the aforementioned Finnish style, or just create a few more tracks of blast beats and ungodly howling. The simple fact that Spectral Wound are capable of slowing things down and moving into a discordant, noise-filled realm shows not just promise, but a unique vision. Even as they mock us with their blasphemous sermons and nether-realm sounds, this is a band that isn’t afraid to throw down the gauntlet and challenge those who would dare defy them. “Winter Light” is a prime example of this, as they move from a funeral drone opening until they pounce upon the listener with one fucking hell of a windmill, head-banging passage – one that left me throwing my best Black Metal arm gestures up into the air while thrashing in my living room. Spectral Wound have called forth on their collective powers in the dark arts, seamlessly moving between raw Black Metal to a more nuanced, almost cryptic take on this sound.
It’s not that this band straddles the line of really avant-garde Black Metal that has been all the rage lately with the kids. Their feet are firmly cemented in the traditional sound of frost-infused hate that has been going strong for all these years. But it’s the occasional moments of feedback and slower passages that conjure up visions of their native city and landscape. As a result of these excursions into unknown waters, that lends a certain weight and necessary atmosphere to their songs. It’s hard not to hear the mid-portion of “The Hammer and the Flute” or the opening of “A Cool, Dark Place” and not feel the frost bite of winter creep across your face. It’s in these little moments of subtle shifts in direction that make Terra Nullius so damn diabolical. Even with one foot in the grave, Spectral Wound manage to sound fresh and new. A feat that can be often difficult to accomplish when it comes to creating this raw, take no prisoners style of Black Metal. Even the closing song “White Heaven in Hell” churns between the traditional sound and their own unique sound. What’s really staggering is that this is the bands first real release. Terra Nullius sounds as if they have been doing this – as this project – for years.
Mark Twain famously once commented that Montreal was “…the first time I was ever in a city where you couldn’t throw a brick without breaking a church window.” A quote that has been used a hundred times over. Yet, it aptly describes a city that is now facing the looming threat of losing these historical monuments due to gentrification and sky-rocketing costs of maintaining these buildings. It seems that Spectral Wound aren’t just merely concerned with throwing stones at their native city’s church windows – they want to tear them all down in a savage display of contempt. I’ve been known to verbally pick at the scab that has been forming over the wound that is Black Metal these days, be it on here via reviews or in person when the topic comes up. Black Metal is a style of music that is seeing it’s boundaries pushed in a multitude of ways, but has also kinda turned into a joke. I’m all for sonic exploration and the evolution of metal. But sometimes, it’s just so fucking nice to hear something so god damn evil and true to the original meaning and sound of what Black Metal was. Terra Nullius is a release made for the die-hard, trve fan of this infamous genre. The ones who scoff at over-produced, festival sized bands. Spectral Wound have crafted something just for those people in mind. The ones who like their Black Metal cloaked in the black void beyond space and time. The cold air of a winters night and the screeches of night-time terrors resonating forth from their record player. Something tells me, that if the folks behind this project can muster up more of this dark magic, that we’ll be hearing some rather bold sounds issued forth from Quebec in the near future.