Nordic black metal maulers Saligia create disorienting fire on bizarre second record ‘Fønix’

Saligia_1The year is getting long in the tooth, and patience and interest are waning. There remains a lot of music left to hear (or deposit into the scrap heap), and it’s not hard to walk away from something just from pure saturation. But the end of 2015 also is offering something different than most years, that being a handful of really interesting releases that keep the remaining juices flowing a little longer.

One of those comes from Nordic black metal outfit Saligia (named mnemonically after the Latin translations of the seven deadly sins), who return with their powerful, often times demented new record “Fønix.” They may hail from the land that fired up the heart of the Second Wave, but Saligia certain trudge their own path. This very much is a black metal record, but it’s disorienting, interesting, and at times really weird. No paint by numbers, no rigid rules, and just pure furnace-ready expression. It’s definitely will grab you and unleash periods of violence, but they create atmosphere and odd ambiance that are elements just as important as the beatings.

Saligia-Cover“Fønix” is the band’s second full-length, with the first “Sic Transit Gloria Mundi” coming in 2011. The band first bubbled to earth in 2006, unleashing two demo recordings that preceded their debut long player. An EP “Lvx Aeternae” followed in 2013, and now here we are, with this fiery, strange new record that will turn over and over in your head. At the helm is long-time creator Ahzari, who handles guitars, bass, and vocals (that element is one that separates them from most in this realm), and with him is drummer Vegard M. Berg, who joined the lineup permanently a few years ago after being a live player with the band. The idea is these creations are from visions and dreams Ahzari has had floating in his sub-conscious, and that certainly registers as often times these tracks feel like they originate from a nightmarish void.

“Fire: Tear Apart the Veil” chugs open, with the vocals as half growl, half shriek, always easy to decipher. That’s what sets apart Ahzari’s vocals in that they certainly aren’t a traditional style (he comes off more as off-kilter storyteller), but they work perfectly with the music. The song starts to break apart as it develops, with the pace really galloping ahead and Ahzari wailing, “Our father is death!” Soloing spirals, the savagery builds, and we’re on to “Revelation: A Sign Reveals.” There, disorienting melodies arrive, with warbling vocals bubbling and the pace boiling. Furious guitars swelter, with the vocals decimating your senses and the melodies swaggering. Things get unhinged, as strange emanations arrives, the drums are crushed, and total violence rampages to the finish. “Abyss: In Darkness Forge Alight” thrashes heavily, with the tempo penetrating and mashing, the crazed vocals rushing, and the band causing dizzying madness. The final minutes really ramp up the intensity, with Ahzari howling maniacally and the music smearing and swirling.

“Voices: Her Hidden Darkness” blisters and grinds you in its gears, later injecting a cold, watery undercurrent that sends chills before terror strikes the heart. Ahzari digs deep to blister your flesh, while the guitars take a slurry, drunken twist, causing blurred vision and vertigo. Weird, clean singing slips in, compounding the calm, and then the track blows apart, with shrieks raining, the pace switching continuously, and the end burning away. Closer “Fønix: Flame Coronation” is the longest cut at 10:08, with a clean, mesmerizing start that takes its time and lets the drama build. Doomy thrashing arrives later, with the vocals tearing open the scene, the pace punishing, and the music flowing fluidly. The guitar work commands and compels, with a yowled, wordless melody slathered over top, and the band letting their fiery transmission fades into the night.

Thankfully Saligia have found a way to inject some ingenuity into black metal and leave us with something that makes a serious dent, especially mentally. “Fønix” definitely is not an end-year dump of an album and instead is vital, striking, and flooding with chaos. The more time you spend with this thing, the further you’ll go down the rabbit hole of this band’s warped imagination.

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