Label: Graceless Recordings
The marriage of black metal and more sonically extreme genres is nothing new, and has long ago lost its ability to shock simply by the nature of its mere existence. That’s not to imply that there’s anything wrong with mixing your black metal with, say, harsh noise or drone; but novelty alone is no longer enough to get a record noticed. It has to have substance, something more to it than antisocial sounds played at antisocial volumes. It’s with this in mind that A Cryptic Howl Of Morbid Truth by Spanish trio Black Earth must be considered, as it is that rare thing: a blackened noise album both shockingly vicious in sound and atmosphere, but also with enough depth to keep the listener coming back for more.
There’s no disguising the sheer malevolence and power in this album. It is not loud for the sake of being loud; rather, volume is used with the specific aim of assaulting the listener, dragging them into the dark currents the band produce, be it through walls of static, damaged black metal riffs, or harsh noise bombardments. The stench of the occult persists throughout, a sinister backdrop that occasionally rises to the fore, as with the wordless chants and incantations during side A closer “Nisi Solis Nobis Scripsimus”. When moments of discord arise, they feel otherworldly in origin, as if something from beyond has stirred and is attempting to claw through – it’s similar in feel to what the likes of Deathspell Omega and Portal strive for, with fifth track “Riding The Tiger Along Kali Yuga” bringing to mind those greats as much as it does the likes of Gnaw Their Tongues. That it’s arguably the most accessible track on the album, despite being five and a half minutes of harsh noise and damaged metal, speaks volumes about just how violent and disquieting the rest of A Cryptic Howl Of Morbid Truth is.
Even when the band dial back on the volume, there is still no let up in intensity. “Masks Of Their Own Facelessness” may open with comparatively sparse industrial and noise, but the atmosphere is no less heavy and suffocating, and it soon builds in to a claustrophobic industrial beast, all the more effective for the way it doesn’t rely on volume to crush the listener. It’s in ways like this that the theme of the album – the inevitable death of all life giving way to chaos on a galactic, philosophical scale – is done justice to, without said theme and narrative ever feeling as if it is being followed at the expense of the music. This is clear from closer “A Monarch Spawned In Chaos Wanders Among The Ruins”, an eleven minute nightmare that conjures a deep existential dread with no resolution, only an uneasy worry that lingers long after the album has finished.
A Cryptic Howl Of Morbid Truth is an album so utterly devoid of light that it is remarkable. At a time when blackened noise often feels uninspired, Black Earth have released an album that retains the ability to shock, simply by being really fucking good, taking the best elements of the genres and combining them so well. It’s entirely inaccurate to describe the album as enjoyable – rather, it’s something to be experienced, and should not be approached lightly. Not for the faint hearted.
A Cryptic Howl Of Morbid Truth can be streamed and downloaded through Bandcamp. It can be purchased on cassette (limited to 150 copies) via Graceless Recordings; vinyl and CD versions are set for release later in the year.