Infestus’ darkness is loud and fully engulfed

You’re probably as tired of hearing about one-man black metal bands as I am of writing about them, but one must remember to keep an open mind even in the face of relentless oversaturation.

I say that because we’re here to talk about a one-man black metal band, and I assure you, as tired as you may be of hearing about these projects, Germany’s Infestus, led by Andras, is one that deserves your attention. His new record, the interestingly titled “Ex/Ist,” is his third full-length under the Infestus banner and his second for Debemur Morti. It’s also one that doesn’t pay heed to some of the American-style solo acts who largely eschew strong production and audio richness, as the record sounds like one that was performed by an entire band. A large one.

Some history is needed. Andras formerly was the drummer for black metal band Dunkelfront (I assume that means dark front), who split up after a couple of demos, and he went on to form Infestus. The band first released “Of Ancient Splendour,” a 2003 demo, following that with a 2004, self-released full-length effort “Worshipping Times of Old.” Guitarist Harbarth left the fold in 2006, and in 2008, the band dropped the well-received concept record “Chroniken des Ablebens” their first for Debemur Morti and a true indication of the what was ahead for the band. Or so it seemed. Vocalist Dagon eventually decided to leave the fold in 2010, leaving just Andras to carry on with the band, and thus the one-man concept came to pass. So it took quite some time to get to this point, yet here we are with “Ex/Ist.”

As noted, if you knew nothing about the band before hearing this third record, you’d have no idea this is now a solo jaunt. The music is heavy and involved, reminding me a bit of Bay Area one-man crusher Palace of Worms, who also makes record more full-bodied than most bands, and Bergraven, the brainchild of Pär Gustavsson. No corners are cut, nothing is dialed back, and the production is strong and alive. That’s probably something that’ll help those prejudices about solo black metal projects slip away, because there’s a real effort to make this thing have a full-band sound. It’s really quite punishing.

After an eerie mood-setting opener “Akoasma,” Andras launches right into the thing with “Down Spiral Depersonification,” giving a true indication of the bleak, dark, futile, anti-social attitude this music espouses. “Darkness Blazing in the Flame of Fire,” while a slightly redundant title, starts off with a chill instead, with Andras whispering creepily over the music, with layered riffs and a strong melody that might soothe but should instead shock; “Torn Observer” has a similar personality, but the song eventually melts into something of a breakdown with scintillating soloing; “Mirror Mind Reality” is warped and doomy, with an apparent concentration on mental destruction, with our narrator warning, “There is no fucking cure”; while closer “Descend Direction Void” is savage and chugging, with the tone  trickling clean, going back to black, and fading out with folk-like acoustic guitar and plenty of echoed noise. It’s quite satisfying and certainly leaves you full and fulfilled.

“Ex/Ist” took a great deal of effort to come to fruition, and surely the roster shuffling and eventual realization that only one mind could be in charge of such darkness had to be something of a rude awakening. But in the end, this is a band that probably should only be one guy, damnations against such formations aside. As noted, we’re not talking lo-fi, rough-edged stuff such as Xasthur or Leviathan, though the mood is similar. This is a great-sounding record, one that opens more of itself each time I’ve heard the thing so far. It’s an interesting listen, one that does the always reliable Debemur Morti quite well and should find favor among those who like both black metal and the more atmospheric, airy stuff that lets some oxygen in so you can gulp some in between pits of fire. It also should be noted that in a half year that’s allowed tons of black metal to pile up like a scrap heap, Infestus is one of the few bands whose work has shined through it all and made a positive impression. Give it a real shot and see if you don’t feel the same.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.infestus.com/

To buy “Ex/Ist,” go here: http://www.eitrin.com/