Black metal chameleon Torii add atmosphere, thicker murk to the mix on furious self-titled album

So much art is so dark nowadays, a product of our time for sure, and things are only bound to get worse from here. No idea if we’re anywhere near a global apocalypse or just a mere extinction event, but the pain just keeps getting deeper, and the chances of humanity coming out of things unscathed already has been done away with.

That theme of outright destruction bleeds over into the new self-titled record from Torii, the project of multi-instrumentalist Bill Masino, who has seen this venture from its start as a duo to this seventh record where he’s now the sole member. It’s the first record in three years under this banner, and the music here is about as varied as it is anywhere else in the catalog. Black metal remains the spine, though there are elements of death metal, doom, and atmospherics as the eight tracks combine to form a spellbinding adventure that is one of the most immersive Torii albums yet.

“The Second Renaissance” begins with morbid riffs and burly growls that crush before synth folds in, and acoustic guitars add a rustic feel. Strings reach as the center is ripped out all over again, the vocals deface, and everything comes to a pummeling finish. “Synthetic Dust” pounds way as the bass coils and strikes, and the darkness collects, bringing with it stunning power that leaves you reeling. Then the pace comes unglued, the playing chugs massively, and the leads burn and also cut you deeply, making you feel every damaged nerve. The playing fades to dark for a moment before it rises again, delivering gloomy tidings that pull you under for good. “Persephone” is a quick instrumental cut that feels murky and foggy, increasing the dark moods as “Eurydice” arrives and basks in strangeness. A dreary force makes its way toward you, simmering heavily in burly death, trucking slowly but solidly into churning guitars and an unexpected glimmering. Things get confounding and freezing, chilling you in your place.

“Grey Expanse” sinks into heaviness with a punishing aura and a way of making you feel even more uncomfortable. The guitars are engulfed in flames as we tear through a mystical aura that pumps out fog, the voices echo, and the punches land even harder. A bit of a psychedelic strip emerges, and massive hell is delivered, mashing your bones, drowning you in eerie chaos as everything disappears into a space haze. “Void” centers in murky immersion and a sense of hypnosis, increasing the shadows and returning to the stars, paving the way for “Inertia” that enters amid strange melodies and warm guitars that soon enter rocky waters. The playing mangles as the growls roar, gutting you and bringing violence that eats away at your body and mind. “Torii” is the closer, starting with guitars dripping and a bizarre mist increasing, setting up an ambiance that turns into a beast. About four minutes in, the growls arrive, and a mid-tempo hulking makes its way toward you, slashing away and eventually making toward the heavens. Guitars dissolve into warmth as mournful strains bleed, the playing descends into psychological testing, and stardust drops, covering you in mystery.

Torii’s new, self-titled record is one of the most confident and varied in the band’s run, a really strong collection that takes you on a journey beyond this plane and into something else. Each track here builds on that drama, making this a true interconnected experience and not something from which you can just cherry pick tracks and expect to find meaning. This is a late-year gem, an example of black metal that can take chances, eschew rules, and achieve something altogether their own.

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