PICK OF THE WEEK: Transilvania mash death, thrash into black metal with ‘Of Sleep and Death’

There was a time, and not that long ago, when black metal had a very strict boundary from which bands didn’t often veer, and if they did, it could be detrimental to the artists in the event they go too far beyond where they stand. Luckily, we’ve moved the goalposts in the last few years, chances are taken within black metal’s confines, and we’ve been better off for it, to be honest.

We have another shining example of that progress with “Of Sleep and Death,” the second record from Austria’s Transilvania, a band that doesn’t seem all that concerned about obeying rules. And good for them because this record, which landed on the first day of the year, is an exciting, vicious, sprawling display that’s a blood rush from beginning to end. There also are roots that have grown from Transilvania into metal’s formative years, but it’s there as a texture and not as a commitment to the past. It all makes for a remarkable effort by this band—bassist/vocalist P. Čachtice, guitarists O. von Schwarzenberger and D.D. Stumpp, drummer H. Paole Grando—one that takes what they established on 2018 debut “The Night of Nights” and takes that even further into the stratosphere to mesmerize us all.

“Opus Morbi” stirs from the start as organs swirl and the guitars awaken before everything is ripped to shreds. Melodic fury and explosive growls send ripples, while crunchy and disorienting playing make your eyeballs hurt. A fiery charge keeps hammering away, racing before everything burns off. “Hekateion” has guitars mashing and gruff growls staggering as speed and melody unite. Complete savagery is fueled by adding gasoline and echoing shrieks as the playing takes on a classic metal feel as guts are stomped into the ground. The title track arrives amid spellbinding guitar work and splattering vocals as the pace is a lightning jolt to your system. The pace is pummeling, but it eventually is vaporized and chills the atmosphere as guitars boil and again delve back into classic era terrain, which makes the heart swell with drama. Everything explodes anew as the track races, the simple, effective chorus strikes again, and the track ends in a cloud of smoke. “Lycanthropic Chant” lands stiff punches as everything comes to life, and the chorus fattens lips. The drums hammer and leave everything powdered while the guitars scrape at scabs and end the track in heated fashion.

“Vault of Evening” has riffs snarling and the pace clubbing away as things get speedy and volatile. The leads bleed color as the assault trickles into a hazy dream, turning your brain into warm mush before the attack is under way again. From there, the offensive is on as the leads glaze and melody buries you in shallow soil. “Heart Harvest” has a punchy start as the growls lacerate, and the howls attack your central nervous system, causing your heart to race. The guitars heat up as the growls eat into your psyche, tunneling toward your anxiety as gang shouts echo, warm leads rush, and the track bleeds its last.  “Mortpetten” has riffs going for broke and challenging speed records while raw growls pick at flesh, and the tempo relentlessly gallops. The leads destroy as the vocals bludgeon, causing vertigo as the track finally relents. “Underneath Dying Stars” is your closer that bleeds into the picture as Čachtice bellows before the track comes unglued. The entrancing pace plays tricks while the guitars go off and unleash hell. Grisly growls turn into furious roars as the pace speeds along, and the drums power the song to its devastating end.

Sure, there remain those people who hold black metal to silly ideals born like three decades ago, but more and more artists are doing whatever they see fit, and Transilvania are one of them. “Of Sleep and Death” has its share of death metal, thrash, and even gothy shadows, but its base is undeniable, and it remains heavy and ashen dark. This is one hell of a record containing music that pays off the imagination and wonder it promises at the front door with its cover art and continues to expand the idea of what it means to play the heaviest, darkest music on earth.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/transilvaniaaustria/

To buy the album, go here: https://invictusproductions666.bandcamp.com/album/of-sleep-and-death

For more on the label, go here: https://invictusproductions.net/