Verberis- The Apophatic Wilderness (Album Review)

May 1, 2024


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Verberis has continually refined and transformed their sound over the past decade, sometimes channeling a bit more black metal while other times bringing the weight and density of death metal into play.  What ties their discography together is an emphasis on expansive songwriting that provides plenty of twists and turns, and whether you’re spending time with the slower almost death/doom churn of Vorant Gnosis or the leap into dissonant black metal with 2022’s Adumbration of the Veiled Logos there is plenty of incredible performances and atmosphere on display.  This year’s The Apophatic Wilderness tweaks the approach taken by its predecessor, opting for a methodical series of twists and turns that let the explosive moments stand out even more.  It’s a bit more of a slow burn but given the right amount of time Verberis’ latest effort will stick with you for some time to come.

In some ways The Apophatic Wilderness reminds me of where Deathspell Omega went on their last full length, as the dissonance is still on full display but the songwriting is a bit slower and methodical.  That’s not to say that the band doesn’t suddenly explode into a flurry of blasting , but both “The Emptying of God” and “Labyrinthine Privation” spend just as much time slowly building up layers of tense atmosphere while still throwing in unexpected flourishes.  The latter is a great example, as the bass lines bend and twist with an immense amount of weight while the guitars have an airier dissonance that feels like it’s causing you to descend into madness.  Without warning the tempo picks up significantly and the guitar work becomes much more intricate, with the melodies on this particular song giving off similar tones as both Deathspell Omega and Aosoth.  The two-part “Arteries Unto Ruin” is where Verberis twists the script yet again, as the first part spends a lot of time using droning layers that are much cleaner than one might initially expect, and even when the dissonance comes back in things still have a feeling as though you’re hearing the calm before the storm.  That feeling is reinforced when the second part kicks in with the speed and constant shifting, with the intricacies of the guitar work becoming more apparent as you spend more time with the track.  Around the six minute mark the guitars absolutely explode into one of the most furious solos I’ve heard in the genre since Nightbringer, coming close to what I’d describe as shredding in black metal.  It’s completely unexpected but ends The Apophatic Wilderness on a high, showcasing that Verberis has achieved their best balance of sprawling atmosphere and chaotic complex writing yet.  Drummer Jamie Saint Merat once again delivers an incredible performance, providing interesting fills during the slower passages and precise blasting when the material calls for it.

Vocalist N.H. sticks with a raspy scream for much of The Apophatic Wilderness, and where a denser production would likely swallow up the vocals Verberis has opted to give them enough space to stand out with each appearance.  Even as the tempo picks up and the rest of the band hits listeners with churning layers of sound, the screams hover above the surface.  It’s a familiar approach for anyone that’s either listened to this group’s previous work or dissonant black metal in general, but there’s a sense of fury to the performance that elevates this above your average act.  What also works to Verberis’ advantage is how well spaced the vocals are, as there are plenty of sections that let the instrumentals drive and N.H. always seems to come back in at just the right time to add that extra burst of intensity.

With their third full length Verberis has shifted away from their black/death metal combination in favor of tonality and riffs that fall more squarely into dissonant black metal territory.  Yet even with the shift in tone their songs are anything but straightforward, and while the pacing is a bit slower and methodical this time around there are still some chaotic and nightmarish passages that emerge when you least expect it.  It took some additional time to grow on me compared to 2022’s effort, but the tense atmosphere and twists and turns have provided plenty of new details with each time through.  Depending on your personal tastes the tonality or slightly more chaotic approach of Adumbration of the Veiled Logos may stand out a bit more, but both albums find Verberis firing on all cylinders.  The Apophatic Wilderness is available from NoEvDia.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg