More than a decade ago, I was on a road trip when our group was encountered by one of the most vicious thunderstorms I ever witnessed in my life. We had to retreat to a nearby restaurant where we watched helplessly as the power was cut off, and the large metal poles holding the lights in the parking lot practically bent in half. It felt like a force greater than we are was out for blood.
That story rushed back into my brain when taking on “Dreams of Fragmentation,” the first record from Oakland, Calif., progressive black metal band Cailleach Calling. The band is named after the Cailleach, a figure from Gaelic mythology who is at the heart of storms and thunder but also provides a delicate, caring hand to nature and animals in the winter. That summer day, she was at our throats! The band’s members—vocalist Chelsea Murphy, guitarist/bassist/synth player Tony Thomas, drummer Yurii Kononov—inhabit other bands such as Dawn of Ouroboros and Botanist, and here they bring a mixture of black metal that is both volatile and atmospherically beautiful, feeling like the heart and aftermath of a wailing storm.
“Phosphenic Array” starts at a torrid pace, shrieks wrapping over top, progressive hell unfurling over its entire reach. Synth glaze settles as the anguish increases, growls dig deeper into the skin, and an atmospheric rush aligns with a hypnotic fury that keeps the storm increasing. The pace pushes fluid energy, eating away at you before the playing zaps into synth bubbles. “Bound By Neon” enters in murk, keys simmering, the shrieks drilling into the mind. Whispery speaking runs into a chilling nighttime vibe, spacing out and then ripping back smothering. Cosmic swirls stain the sky as the leads char, desperate wails reach into chest cavities, and everything dissolves into the distance.
“Cascading Waves” is the longest track, running 15:07, and it eases in on the wind, slowly developing a thickening ambiance, the synth whipping a cloud cover as Murphy’s voice adds an element of hypnosis. The playing gets moodier and poetic, and the singing adds a dose of beauty and elegance, barreling into the mists when things suddenly come unglued. Black metal terror explodes from the seams, rampaging recklessly, meeting up with fiery shrieks and utter brutality. Keys wash into the background as chaos sharpens its blades, rippling out into a sound breeze. “Mercurial Inversion” ends the record with wrenching hell, keys drizzling, and the leads soaring into the stars. The playing is punishing and spacious, the vocals shred, and some clean notes slip nearly undetected into the power. Your senses are battered as the final stretch jabs at psychedelic heat, dissolving in your skin.
“Dreams of Fragmentation” is properly named as the record feels like it’s jolting the electricity in your brain that fires up your storytelling elements, but in a sense that isn’t exactly linear. Cailleach Calling’s debut gets inside your body and infects, but not entirely in a dangerous way. It becomes part of your psyche, it molds you, and it makes your imagination an even more powerful tool as you bow to the majesty and power of nature.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/CailleachCalling
To buy the album (U.S.), go here: https://debemurmorti.aisamerch.com/
Or here (Europe): https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop
For more on the label, go here: https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/