Black metal collective Urzeit mix up words, put self-hatred into focus on ashen ‘Anmoksha’

urzeit-coverI never trust people who seem permanently, unflappably happy. It’s not that I reject people feeling good about themselves or expressing joy, but when there’s only one mode, I’m perpetually annoyed. I don’t know why that is. I never feel this sense of everlasting happiness, and I don’t think I ever want to.

I’ve always wondered if I hate parts of myself and am permanently annoyed with my shortcomings, which is why therapy is such a great tool. I don’t know where I stand yet on this matter, but I hold that it could be true. So never mind if I detest you for being happy. It’s not you, it’s me. That idea of self-hatred is what initially intrigued me when I got the promo and background material for “Anmoksha,” the debut record from Urzeit. The music examines these dark, internally festering ideas of self-hatred and unrest, that quivering feeling where you think you could claw your way out of your own body. But the record also balances that with the knowledge that we have positive aspects about ourselves, leading to a great internal struggle between dual characters. That probably sounds insane to people who walk around with smiles pasted on their faces. For the rest of us, it makes sense.

Urzeit, which is based in Portland, Oregon, has been around for the past three years, releasing a couple demos, a compilation release, and a split with Akatharsia. “Anmoksha” is the first full effort for the band—drummer/vocalist A.L.N. (Mizmor), guitarist R.F. (Ash Borer, Triumvir Foul), bassist M (also of Ash Borer and Triumvir Foul)—who are members of the Vrasubatlat circle and have used reconstructed words to create the album name and the song titles contained within. For example, the title of the record “Anmoksha” is made from English an (without) and Hindu term Moksha (release from the cycle of rebirth, leading to ultimate peace) to create a word that means no rest/no peace. The music pays that off, as it is feral, fiery, and often primitive sounding, with vocals that feel like they’re paying the price for all humankind’s wrong deeds and bad turns.

urzeitlogo1“Imnagas” is a blood-curdling instrumental opener, where thick basslines suffocate, wordless shrieks lacerate the senses, and savage chaos bleeds its way into the title cut, where guitars start in a blaze. Pained shrieks and engorged growls mix, mashing together over lines such as, “The fool, marked and sentenced, tossed about as their toy,” as the pace settles into purposely repetitious guitars that drub your mind. Horrible wails and infernal playing that melts brains pushes and stretches into “Exeris,” which blows up from the start into a passage of heavy-as-fuck punishment. The growls and shrieks thicken, sounding like they’re being delivered during the exact moment of existential crisis. The howl of, “I tear at my skin … would that I ripped it off! My reddened eyes beg to be scratched out,” conveys the physical aspect of that torment, as the song ends in feedback and screams. “Nascphanin” unloads the pain right off the bat, as the drums rumble, the bass clobbers, and shouts of, “My self-hatred is unmistakably clear, but why I even give a fuck, why I seek out standards I conceive of, leaves me crawling on the ground,” that has the essence of grinding one’s knuckles into the cement just to divert the source of the pain. The melodies during this one are confounding and swirling, with the tempo grinding violently before finally giving way to silence. “Bellisunya” has riffs tearing out of control before the drums unload a ton of bricks. The vocals scrape, tearing at its own psyche by lamenting, “An empty hide bag represents me,” while the flow turns hypnotic, sickening your stomach and making your eyes turn before a final punk-infused blast is buried in noise.

“Illartha” is massive and thrashy from the start, as crazed madness spreads itself over everything, and deep growls and manic shrieks deliver the bloodied message. This track pelts your temples relentlessly before giving way to “Autmomus” and its huge riffs and feeling that the earth is imploding. Spindling guitars, a speedier pace, and gurgled growls are part of this recipe that warps any sense of reality you have left and buries you even deeper into the machine. “Migrakama” launches with a startling cry, with the pace breathing fire, and the riffs making themselves an indefensible force. Hellish horrors bleeds into the picture, and the tempo never lets up, beating you and removing submission as an option. “Gravivek” toys with the notion of trying to do the same thing over and over and getting nowhere. “To bash one’s head against a wall without end, and hope to see less than total gore,” hammers that part home amid slow-driving misery and added horrible cries. After a calculated drubbing, the song tears open in earnest, devastating with speed, grim growls, and a menacing disposition, bringing the hammer down repeatedly, leaving bits of flesh and blood speckled everywhere. Closer “Entitiksha” is filled with noise and grimness before turning into a complete decimation. The playing loops, playing games with your mind, while the smoke builds and slowly chokes you. Cries of, “All is selfishness and woe! I’m found a coward, nursing myself, unable to cope and be alive,” as the song builds toward the desire to crush this cycle and find freedom. As it goes, noises crackle, the assault slows but doesn’t relent, and the psychological wasteland that’s behind blows up ash and sparks from the battle that took place.

Urzeit play with the notion of seeking betterment in a world that has no purpose, and that’s another feeling that’s all too prominent right now. “Anmoksha” is the ideal vessel for absorbing one’s negative opinions about oneself and either understanding them or letting them fester. This record feels like it’s paying its debt to the idea of lack of peace and rest in every ounce of the music, making for an experience that isn’t just another metal album, but also a sobering examination of life and purpose.

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