The utterly bizarre in heavy metal can make spending time with a band something other than just putting on a record, absorbing the music, and walking away with an opinion. There’s an experience with a strange band like a Portal or Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats or Brujeria where you also get to use your imagination to figure out what’s really going on behind their shadows and music (even if it’s just a lot of tongue-in-cheek, murderous fun).
The latest in the line of truly strange metal bands has bubbled out of Toronto in the form of Thantifaxath, a shrouded, mysterious trio whose identities remain unknown and, if they performed with completely different people every show, hardly anyone would be able to know that definitively. You want names? We don’t have them. You want to know if they have prior experience in any other bands? We also cannot answer that for you. But that all feeds nicely into their music, which is just as bizarre as this band is. It’s even tough to put a finger on what the group’s brand of metal sounds like. There is black metal, death metal, prog, and all kinds of weird zapping all over the metallic universe, often all in the same few seconds of music. They’re clearly not comfortable staying in one zone, and that pays off in great dividends on their incredible debut record “Sacred White Noise.”
The band’s name also has eerie origins of ceremonial magick and the Qlippoth tunnels and a bunch of things I have really cursory knowledge about, so I won’t try to fool you. But just doing some mild research on the matter adds to the band’s aura, and hearing the music on the six-track, 44-minute “Sacred White Noise” adds deep levels of nightmarish energy. This is a different experience, one you don’t get from all death and black metal bands, and Thantifaxath even stand apart on the Dark Descent roster, which is made up of some pretty diverse and interesting groups. These guys or girls could be demons themselves. Hell, how do we know? And again, spending time digesting the music over and over again still makes me feel odd and like I’m going through a record that never fully presents all of its deep, soil-ridden secrets to me.
The record begins with “The Bright White Nothing at the End of the Tunnel,” a title that’s maybe as revealing as anything on the record, if you take the words literally. Organs spill in at the start before guitars erupt and bleed all over, smearing everything with muck, and the playing goes from completely brutal to tricky, infernally mathematical, and strange, with the vocals sounding harsh and icy. “Where I End and the Hemlock Begins” has a frosty intro than then spills into a cascade of sounds and mystical chaos that meets up with violent, inventive guitars that spiral all over and drums that devastate the sense. But the music also gets dreamy, and not in a comforting sense, as you float through the madness and slurry wildness. Toward the end of the song, the punishment wells up again and weaves together a compelling finish that arrests the senses. “Gasping Into Darkness” has strange liturgical-style chants at the start that give way to lightning-intense guitar work and furious thrashing that make it easy to imagine fire engulfing everything around you. There are more inventive melodies, dizzying compositions, and waves of crazed fury that can overtake and overwhelm you.
Instrumental “Eternally Falling” is murky, with dark keys rolling in, setting up cosmic, psychedelic fog. You want to feel uncomfortable, like you are about to leave your body? These first few moments will do that. Eventually noise pierces that illusion, guitars trickle in, and the band opens up its strange visions a little bit for closer examination. None of it will make you feel even remotely human. “Panic Becomes Despair” begins churning from the start, with guitars creating a spinning vortex of terror and the vocals feeling nothing short of vicious. There is a pure blackness to the guitar melodies, and eventually things slow down a bit to achieve a death march tempo designed to stomp you. The final moments let static hiss and sting, with the dark energy carrying everything to its muddy grave. Epic closer “Lost in Static Between World” leads you into a room filled with evil ambiance and thick violins playing like they are leading you to your eternal place of suffering. Then the song opens up horrifically, with the band settling into a prog-doom pace, and the vocals barking out like one final warning to avoid the abyss. The song sprawls and pull, with cries of, “Where are you?” that sound desperate and frustrated, with the music providing ample moments for sorrow and anger. Pockets of speed arrive and blend into the final moments of horrific nightmares, where all the sounds blend together and cause your stomach to wrench and your brain to beg for a drop of mercy. It doesn’t come until Thantifaxath decide you’ve heard enough, 11:16 after this sickness started.
You’re not likely to find another band with the sense of mystery and ambitious metallic chops possessed by Thantifaxath. “Sacred White Noise” is an album that should compel you to take adventures that could result in your demise, expand your thinking on what metal is really capable of doing, and immerse you in an unknown realm that promises no answers and likely won’t provide any. This is a chance to take a journey with a record that isn’t dictating to you what you should think and feel and what you should experience along the way. That’s up to you, and the next time you encounter these frosty figures for another sojourn, you might end up meeting blank souls different from the ones that greeted you here.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Thantifaxath/3540326043
To buy the album, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/store/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/