Germany’s Khthoniik Cerviiks has left an impression on underground metal listeners over the last seven years, with their full length SeroLogiikal Scars (Vertex of Dementiia) serving up a dizzying helping of black and death metal ran through Voivod’s aesthetic and complex approach to songwriting. For their second full length Æequiizoiikum this has only been amplified, with the band offering a whirlwind of abrasive and alien sounding riffs that cram in a considerable amount of ideas into a single track. Despite being slightly less approachable than some of their genre peers, for the more adventurous listener this album is another must have that solidifies Khthoniik Cerviiks as one of the more intriguing bands out there.
As soon as you hit play it becomes clear that you’re about to experience something a little different, as “KC Exhalement 4.0 (Welcome to HAL)” starts things off with nightmarish and sci-fi sounding bursts of electronics that put you immediately on edge. This is warranted, as soon after this two-minute intro reaches its conclusion the instrumentals open up into a dense wall of swirling riffing and thicker bass lines that sound like they can tear right through the closest building. Some of the approach is reminiscent of the nonstop, warlike approach that some of the cavernous and bottom heavy black/death metal bands have adopted in recent years, but Khthoniik Cerviiks has two elements of their songwriting that differentiate themselves from the pack. First, the songs shift far more frequently and change gears in a manner similar to Voivod’s Killing Technology, letting you latch onto a particular riff before heading into completely different territory. The other element at work here that makes a significant difference is how much melody the group has integrated into Æequiizoiikum. Tracks like “Odyssey 3000” and “Para-Dog-Son – Demagorgon” start off dense and almost impenetrable, but then transition over to much colder and almost machinelike melodies that give the material a feeling unlike almost anything out there. There are some progressive influences to this twisting and turning madness, but this is an alien and sometimes bizarre take on the most extreme sides of black and death metal. For some, that might prove to be too much to take in as it’s likely to take at least a couple of listens to start to get comfortable with everything Khthoniik Cerviiks has to offer. But for those like me that seek out metal that pushes established boundaries and forces you to really focus to take everything in, this album proves to be an unsettling yet fun ride from start to finish.
Speaking of alien and cold, the vocals deliver this consistently throughout Æequiizoiikum. The primary pitch is a raspier scream that’s drenched in quite a bit of distortion, allowing it to tower over the recording and coming through as if all of the crazy voices in your head are all talking at once trying to push you into a different plane of existence. This approach alone would’ve been enough to sell me on Khthoniik Cerviiks is attempting to accomplish, but you’ll also find much higher screams that can send chills down your spine with each appearance. None of this may sound fundamentally different from what a lot of other black and death metal bands have channeled in their vocal performances over the decades, but there’s something to the coldness and otherworldly power here that leaves a lasting impression and will have you focusing on this element of the group’s music just as often as the instrumental work.
Three years have passed since Khthoniik Cerviiks last put out material but in the time that has passed they’ve fine tuned their ideas to their most potent levels yet. At the core of what’s happening here is constantly shifting black/death metal that feels like a whirlwind of riffs and distorted, inhuman vocals, but it’s wrapped up in such an alien aesthetic that it’s hard to lump these guys in with so many others in those genres. For some this approach might prove to be too much, but for me it’s another example of how this type of metal can still feel unique and take me to places unknown, resulting in one of the best releases to come out so far in this second half of the year. Æequiizoiikum is available from Iron Bonehead Productions.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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