Rorcal- Silence (Album Review)

Oct. 17, 2023


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The album may be titled Silence, but Rorcal’s latest full-length is anything but silent.  Since 2006 the Swiss band has been combining the abrasive and eeriness of black metal with the crushing intensity of sludge and doom, with each offering emphasizing different elements.  Sometimes you’d get more methodical build-ups and a lot of drone, while other material has gone for a more direct attack.  Silence opts for the latter with some of the group’s most blistering attacks to date, trimming some of the additional nuances in favor of a focused onslaught of dense riffs and nightmarish vocals.  It does fall into a bit of repetition towards the end, and some may prefer the spoken word elements of 2019’s Muladona just a bit more, but there’s no denying that even after seventeen years Rorcal still has plenty to say.

“Early Mourning” offers up a quirk burst of harsh industrial sounding electronics for its first few seconds, and then things quickly transition over to pulsing rhythms and harsher black metal tonality.  It’s an incredibly dense and violent way to kick off the album and gives you a good idea of just where Rorcal’s head space is this time around.  Although the song is just under four minutes in length, it crams in a lot of nuances with shifts from blasting to mid-tempo, crushing riffs where the bass sounds like it’s going to push you through the floor.  It’s a strong first statement that seems focused on inflicting as much punishment as possible through layers and layers of twisted riffs and pummeling drums and bass.  There’s definitely a bit more black metal to Silence compared to some of Rorcal’s past work, but as you make your way through the sludge and doom elements become just as prominent.  This is particularly true on the longer tracks like “Extinguished Innocence”, “Constant Void”, and “No Alleviation, Even in Death”.  Where the shorter pieces go for speed and constant tension as each riff seems to stab you in the chest, the longer ones let the atmosphere and denseness of the instrumentals build methodically until they reach suffocating levels.  It’s an effective approach, though admittedly the almost ten-minute run of “No Alleviation, Even in Death” does result in some repetition and reduces some of the overall impact Silence has.  It’s not a bad song by any means but does overstretch some of the same elements Rorcal already used more effectively early on.  But when the material does reach some of those aggressive peaks it is one of the bleakest and most direct attack on the senses I’ve heard in recent memory, which encourages listeners to come back for another beating.

The vocals skew towards the harsher end of the spectrum with some moves over into singing, though the respite doesn’t come until a little ways into Silence.  “Early Mourning” greets you with raspy screams and lower growls that are arguably just as jagged as the guitar work, though they’re buried in the mix so that they sometimes blend in with the dense layers of instrumentation.  This approach may be an acquired taste for some, depending on how much preference you put on vocals above other elements of music in your metal, but I think they suit what Rorcal is going for here as they sound like they’re just barely breaking through the surface.  “Extinguished Innocence” switches things up in favor cleaner singing and yelling that has more of a doom or post metal feel, channeling a bit more Neurosis compared to the black metal aesthetic of the other pitches.  You won’t hear any spoken word or some of the other approaches that the band used on Muladona, but there’s still enough variation to the performance to keep the intensity at a high.

Rorcal’s latest full length retains some of the crushing weight of its past discography, but the reliance on methodical build-ups is reduced and they go for the throat with dense, twisting black metal on a regular basis.  It’s an approach that works well and is only derailed by the repetitive, sprawling nature of the closing track, but even with that being the case the bleak atmosphere and aggressiveness of the riffs will compel listeners to come back for more.  I appreciate that six albums into their career (or seven if you count 2021’s collaboration with Earthflesh), Rorcal is still tweaking their style and trying different things.  Silence is available from Hummus Records and on limited cassette from Sludgelord Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg