Label: Dark Descent Records
Despite running for “only” 35 minutes, Void Masquerading as Matter, the third release from anonymous black/death trio Thantifaxath, feels much longer. Such is its all-consuming, dissonant darkness, this is the kind of record that feels as if it might never end, its nightmarish soundscapes stretching out in to eternity. This is, of course, a very good thing. Some records are designed to render the outside world meaningless, as if the only thing that exists is the bleak void at the heart of the music; Void Masquerading as Matter is one such record, and it is an absolute success.
Given its nature and uncompromising nature, Void Masquerading as Matter is a record that can feel overwhelming at first. Though there is considerable violence here, as one would expect from other-worldly black metal, it’s not this that makes the record so difficult. Instead, it’s down to the fact that Thantifaxath have crafted something that shifts and turns in uncomfortable, sometimes unexpected ways. Given that we live in an age when the likes of Deathspell Omega and Aosoth no longer seem inherently shocking, this is quite a considerable achievement. It’s also notable that, whilst the record recalls such bands (as is inevitable with this style of black metal), at no stage do Thantifaxath sound as if they are in thrall to such masters. Instead, Void Masquerading as Matter is the sound of a band carving out their own niche within, and making interesting, a style that can sometimes feel as if it no longer has any space left to explore.
Part of this is down to the inclusion of unconventional elements. The almost avant garde piano section within opening track ‘Ocean of Screaming Spheres’ is a fine example, the almost free-form melodies and direction of the piano contrasting strongly with the surrounding black hole of guitars, with the two different elements enhancing one another to great effect. Some of the guitar and bass lines move in ways that are creatively progressive, and have an almost free-jazz feel, such is the way they seem to disregard conventional structures. Yet, at no point does it feel as if the music is out of Thantifaxath’s control, or that the band are being indulgent for the sake of it. All the different techniques and influences are used in the service of creating the most uncomfortable, effective music possible; and in that respect, Void Masquerading as Matter is an absolute triumph.
Yet as uncomfortable as it all can be, the record also has an addictive quality, with the twists and turns being as exciting as they are unsettling, and there’s a certain catharsis to be found by conquering the uncompromising nature of the record. That the record ends with a non-metal track, full of haunting wails and choirs, only adds to this feeling, and further emphasizes the fearlessly artistic take on black metal presented by Thantifaxath. This is something special.