When it comes to black metal and black/death, there’s something appealing about bands that can offer controlled chaos and massive, noisy production values. Groups like Sarcófago, Teitanblood, and Katharsis all cut their teeth on utterly abrasive and over the top performances, but there was substance underneath the noise and violence that gave them an audience. Russia’s Thanatomass is one of the latest artists to offer their take on this style, with this year’s Hades full-length following a demo and two EP’s. Like their peers, this trio goes for a dizzying mix of frantic riffs and a sheer wall of sound but there are some thrilling twists and turns underneath it that bring the whole package together.
It can be hard to pull this type of fast, ever-changing black metal and black/death together in ways that still have nuance. Look around the Internet a bit and you’ll likely find your fair share of artists sloppily stringing transitions together and making it sound like their instrumentation is always about to collapse in on itself. Thanatomass brings considerable more finesse in this regard, with songs coming in fast and furious but flowing seamlessly from one idea to the next. Whether it’s the short two-minute burst of chaotic blasting on “Gravedance Sabbath” or the lengthier ebb and flow of tracks like “Templvm Carnalis / Vomit Ceremony”, there’s a precision to what the band is doing here and they take listeners on a rollercoaster ride of noisy, in your face black metal. At times the sound recalls the rabid nature of South American black/thrash while other times bring in a bit more of death metal’s low end, with the emphasis remaining on as much extremity as possible from beginning to end. Hades is supported by an appropriately noisy and dense sound that often makes it feel like the weight of the instrumentation can open up the ground beneath your feet, but without obscuring the finer details. The band’s able to get under your skin a bit too, with “Living Tombs of Tartaros” transitioning from sheer speed and scorching riffs to slightly slower ones that are so awash in distortion and tense atmosphere that they actively create a sense of dread. Like a Teitanblood or Katharsis album it’s appealing but also a bit exhausting at the same time to peel back all the layers, but though Thanatomass doesn’t quite reach the same heights as those bands. The closing track “Retromass (Morbid Ordinance of Doom)” in particular comes off as a bit overstretched during its slower sections and comes through as just a bit too similar to the earlier tracks but without the same strength of the riffs. It doesn’t derail the experience but does dampen the impact a bit as you make your way towards the conclusion of Hades.
The guitar, bass, and drums may work in tandem to create a ton of noise in chaotic fashion, but it’s the vocal work that helps to puts Thanatomass’ music over the top. You get the standard screams and growls that are drenched in reverb and tower over the recording with an immense presence, but they reach such extremes that it often sounds downright maniacal. The aforementioned “Living Tombs of Tartaros” is a great example, as you get a great mix of highs and lows that reverberate over top of the layers of noise but after a few minutes in you get some wails that are likely to send chills down your spine. It suits just how chaotic the music is as a whole and for anyone that likes some of the most extreme variants of these metal genres, this band will definitely hit the levels of madness you’re looking for.
This type of rollercoaster ride of chaotic and noisy riffs isn’t for everyone, but if any of the other bands I’ve mentioned throughout this review are to your taste than Thanatomass’ full-length debut is a must have. It moves seamlessly from sheer speed to mid-tempo, atmosphere heavy sections without breaking a sweat, and the vocal performance adds to the madness of it all. Admittedly by the end some patterns have emerged and the last track doesn’t have quite the same impact as it treads the same ground, but that doesn’t prevent this from being a wild ride worth taking. Hades is available from Living Temple Records and Nomad Snakepit Productions.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg