Appalachian black metal force Athame unearth devilish chaos on blasting ‘With Cunning Fire…’

athame-liveOf all the dark elements and influences in black metal, there is some major factors lacing through all of it, the most penetrable and blood-curdling of them all. The dark arts, the dark one. You get it. The entire sub-category of orthodox black metal is devoted to the grimmest forces of them all, and the disciples seem to loop over and over through the world.

Now we have a new entrant in the form of Athame, a three-headed force hailing from parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia who pour all of their horrible power into the debut record “With Cunning Fire and Adversarial Resolve.” Their name is inspired by a double-edged dagger used during traditional witchcraft ceremonies, and you can feel that blade dragging down your chest, opening a single avenue of blood during these songs. The record is being released by Grimoire, a label that’s picking up serious steam and is becoming one of the most reliable and interesting in all extreme music. Their diversity is a great thing, and they’ve found another ashen gem in Athame. The infernal fury is thick and apparent here, and if you like your black metal strictly from the old gods, this is one you’ll want to devour whole.

coverIt’s been a mere three years since Athame’s formation, and in that time, the band—vocalist/guitarist Jere, bassist NAM, drummer Haste—comprised a demo and this first record. Comprised of members of bands including Fortress and Wolfnuke, Athame pile on themes of witchcraft, Luciferianism, and occultism on these nine tracks, and even if you’re not down with the spiritual aspect of their music (I pretty much listen for musical reasons primarily), there’s no denying their commitment to the dark and their absolute willingness to bask in whatever moves their poisonous spirits. It’s refreshing to get a black metal record that revels in all of this, and one that could revive the flames within you because, admit it, there are those times when the foulest and vilest senses come to pass, and you’re OK with that.

“The Pillar” is a quick intro cut that opens the record with an eerie synth fog sweeping and monstrous chants sending chills. “A Lost Congregation” is the first full cut, with filth smeared over everything, strong riffs knifing their way in, and growls absolutely crushing. Speed plays a part, with the band leaving you dizzy, and as the storm begins to loosen its grip, an oppressive humidity and doom ugliness take hold. “Five Fold Kiss” smashes open the gates, with wild howls emitted by Jere, and a haze of misery spreading. The soloing arrives and turns the ground ablaze, destroying and raging over all, and smothering doom drops hammers. Maniacal shouts then enter the fray, and the cut comes to a slow-driving finish. “Nema” is another quick instrumental with slurring synth, fires crackling, and warped voices, and that leads to “The Heretic’s Horn” that exudes terror right away. Guitars echo and quiver, with wailed vocals and a calculated pace doing its damage. The drums are crushed, with a terrifying call to arms to “warriors of apostasy,” and the track grinds down with thick Sabbathian riffs.

“For Generations” has a wild, dizzying start, with infernal howls and sooty guitar work choking dust everywhere. The drums splatter while the guitars create fog, and Jere’s Tom G. Warrior style yell of, “Now and forever I burn!” hammers home the band’s might. “Nameless Craft” takes the band back to speed territory, with a mean tempo unleashed, the drums splattered, and the growls practically demanding fealty. The final moments of the song worship fire before it bleeds out in noise. “This Is What the Devil Does” has a driving guitar chug and is monstrously heavy. The track punches away viciously, with weird synth rising up like a spirit from a swamp, and the final moments of the song are just bruising. Closer “Witchfather” begins with a mystical crunch, chants, and charring madness that grasps you by the throat. A violent stampede breaks out, as the bone-crushing playing barrels ahead, mixing into a sticky atmosphere, ritualistic howls, and a sickening synth sheet that amplifies the horror and spreads it to dangerous levels.

Athame’s fury is razor sharp, and their classic sense of black metal pays proper homage to the pioneers of the genre but never comes off like they’re trying to ride anyone’s coattails. The atmospheric fires and animalistic rage that make up the tracks on “With Cunning Fire and Adversarial Resolve” are thick and punishing, and they’re threatening to rampage out of the Appalachians with blood-thirsty swords held aloft. Any sad soul that finds itself in their way can prepare to see the other side of this plane.

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