Thantifaxath is one of those bands that has left a lasting impression since their earliest releases, bursting into black metal seemingly from nowhere in 2011 and offering up a more experimental and dissonant take on the genre that fit well with bands like Deathspell Omega. The Toronto based group has diverged further since those earlier days, with both Sacred White Noise and Void Masquerading as Matter pushing past the genre foundations. Six years have passed since the latter and anticipation has been high to see just how Thantifaxath would bend and transform their sound next, and Hive Mind Narcosis answers that question in a big way. There’s still some black metal tonality to be found, but the songwriting gets even denser and complex in favor of nightmarish, ever-shifting soundscapes. It’s a bit less accessible than its predecessor yet has even more to offer listeners willing to dive headfirst into the abyss.
As you make your way through Hive Mind Narcosis, it’s clear that Thantifaxath have spent a lot of time refining and making their songwriting approaches even murkier and complex. You’ll still hear the dissonant black metal riffing and time signature changes on songs like “Surgical Utopian Love” that immediately recall what the band was doing on Sacred White Noise, but that’s only one piece of the puzzle. Much like Ad Nauseam took death metal and flipped a lot of the script, Thantifaxath seems to be doing that here for dissonant black metal and bring in a slew of other stylistic elements. Opener “Solar Witch” gives a good idea of what listeners are in for, as it lurches forth with a spastic yet deliberate pace that gives off a drone/doom meets haunted orchestra sound before the tempo picks up. The way the riffs are stretched out around the halfway point have an almost mechanical feel, as though the band is bending and reshaping the notes and the listener’s eardrums from one second to the next. These types of bends and shifts make each song feel like a rollercoaster ride where the listener is being pummeled and melded alongside the music, and this admittedly makes Hive Mind Narcosis take a little longer to wrap your head around compared to Thantifaxath’s past discography. But once it clicks, you’ll likely not want to listen to much else for some time, as there are so many little details waiting to be heard underneath the noisy exterior. Even the interlude type track “Blissful Self Disassembly” feels better executed compared to “Eternally Falling” from Sacred White Noise, as it offers sparse electronic soundscapes that open into a nightmarish wall of sound not unlike Gnaw Their Tongues by the end.
The vocals are the one area of Thantifaxath’s music that have remained the same for much of the group’s discography but seeing that they already added an abrasive and nightmarish feel that suited the instrumentation that’s not a bad thing. Right from the start of “Solar Witch” those familiar raspy screams hover top of the recording with a specter-like presence, and no matter how dense the music gets they always pierce through. There is variation to the pitch that keeps things from becoming repetitive, and Thantifaxath once again makes good use of spacing between verses that makes each appearance just as sharp as the last. “Blissful Self Disassembly” shakes things up with chanting and some brief spoken word that proves to be generally unnerving and leads right into the nightmarish madness one would expect, making it stand out just as much as the rest of the album.
Thantifaxath’s sophomore full length has been a long time coming, but it’s clear that time has been spent enhancing all facets of the writing. The songs twist and rebuild more fluidly than in the past and pull in all sorts of stylistic influences, sometimes sounding like a warped jazz or orchestral take on black metal and doom. It’s a bit less accessible than Sacred White Noise and likely not for everyone, but much like Ad Nauseam’s 2012 effort this is a masterclass in weird, avant-garde extreme metal that has some real meat to it and will surely continue to be mentioned in the years to come. Hive Mind Narcosis is available from Dark Descent Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg