Vertebra Atlantis twist brains with odd black, death metal on ‘Lustral Purge in Cerulean Bliss’

Not every piece of art is intended to land with impact for every person who encounters it, and that really is the way it should be. Could you imagine if every person on earth understood and loved, say, Mr. Bungle? Sleepytime Gorilla Museum? Hell, what if every human actually loved Taylor Swift? The record plant backlog would be forever unsolvable, and we’d legit be living in the very real Bad Place.

It’s for those reasons that I appreciate the hell out of Vertebra Atlantis, a strange beast mixing the darkest, most dissonant of black metal with rabid jaw-dripping death metal in a fashion that might be unapproachable for the vast majority of humans. That’s a good thing. The world is fucked up enough as is that a crusher such as the band’s debut record “Lustral Purge in Cerulean Bliss” need not inhabit all of our brains. No, only those who truly can align on an artistic and psychological level will be able to do the heavy lifting it requires to navigate these seven tracks of unspeakable chaos. The band—G.G. (guitars, synths, vocals), Vrangr (bass), R.R. (drums, vocals)—combines experience crafted from other warped entities including Cosmic Putrefaction, Spells of Misery, and Homselvareg, and they meld their strange powers on an album that’ll take a few visits to begin to understand, even more to ideally absorb.

“Agoraphobic Solipsist” starts as a spacious maw as strangeness bubbles, and the vocals open their sinewy muscles. Spindly leads tangle and add spicy elements while savage playing tears limbs apart, gritty vocals punish, and the track leaks into an eerie abyss. “Carnal Denouement” unloads dizzying riffs and a pace that bursts, melding into hovering synth, and then the vocals turn into alien creaking. Things meet a weird vortex as the guitars splinter, and mangling vocals mess with your mind. The playing drills hard as the track ends abruptly, and then we’re on to the title track that simmers in a low-end stomp. The riffs take a dip toward the sinister as a death assault unfurls, causing your blood to surge as deep growls penetrate, and the sounds slip into a bizarre cavern to rest its scorched flesh.

“Altopiano Celeste” is an instrumental piece that feels like you’re entering a dream sequence in media res, as fantastical waters rush, vicious pummeling slips into a mist, and a final surge is drained of its blood. “Spiritual Onset” clobbers right away as speed bursts, and the vocals belch otherworldly horrors. A feverish aura stabs with intent, the playing destroys bones, and fiery chaos ensues, burning until only ash is left. “Saw Thee Quietly Inurned” lands with maniacal howls and a pace that shreds, leaning into monstrous activity. The drums are murdered as pure death comes unglued, and a quick halt to the storm spills into the final moments where guitars sting and usher us toward closer “The Hermit Strums a Mournful Dirge.” There, guitars boil as clouds hover, and heavy blasts shake your skeletal structure. The power is relentless with your body going into protection mode, pushing toward madness that’s over the horizon. The vocals turn up later in the track, grim punishment is achieved, and the track rips off into space, where it can find its proper home among the stars.

“Lustral Purge in Cerulean Bliss” not only is a really fun title to say out loud, it’s the name of a record that will leave you challenged and probably a little bit frightened over the mental toll you just paid. Vertebra Atlantis purposely complicate matters and make you take journeys into dark tunnels you’d otherwise have avoided. This is a bizarre experience, and it’s not something for which you can prepare in advance in any meaningful way.

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