Vile Haint further haunt black metal with Southern magic on infectious ‘Sacrificial Baptism …’

I’ve always thought the unofficial rule set that governed black metal for no apparent reason was just a way to retrain its energy and never let it expand to the areas in which it was destined to spread. Over the years, the gate keepers that sought to prevent the subgenre’s masses from venturing beyond its borders to absorb influences elsewhere have been cast aside, and black metal has been able to grow and shift in various directions.

Nashville black metal force Vile Haint—vocalist/guitarist Ryan Clackner, drummer Zac Ormerod—is one that has bled into places many others haven’t before, taking the template formed three decades ago and giving it an education in the haunted American south. Their second record “Sacrificial Baptism in Murky Waters” takes what they started on debut “Ol’ Hatchie Haint” and expands it ever further into the strange and esoteric, taking you on a five-track, nearly 49-minute excursion into the graveyards, the folk tales, and the ghostly ambiance that infects these tales and gives them a spirit that infects and sends you on a mission into waters you previously were terrified to tread. It’s unsettling and real.

“Cathartic Sacrament of the Cattle Goddess” runs 8:37 and starts with noises haunting and gasping before the playing ruptures and gushes, shrieks weighing over the balmy pace. The playing then begins to blister, creeping and playing with speed and tension. Leads spiral as the intensity increases rapidly, shrieks rain hammers, and the track comes to a storming end. “Unrest in Moonlit Grave” blares in as the vocals carve vein tracks and the drums utterly pulverize. Murk gets thicker as the playing detracts from reality, the leads boil and trample, and the playing charges into slurry filth and howls that take you apart. “Upon the Throne of Restless Vision” erupts as it starts as the drums bustle and the pace lathers you up in fire. Guitars drip as the essence takes on a druggy feel as you work your way down hallways as the power tidal waves. Guitars ring as the pace slowly mauls, eerie guitars slither, and the final moments bleed into a time warp.

“From the Abyss that Yawns” is the longest track, running 13:01 and creating chills that work their way down your spine as strange energy collects as the picture slowly comes into focus. The tempo then warps the mind as the vocals attack and the guitar work rattles, feeling like it’s making alterations to your DNA. Keys glaze as the playing goes from trancey to electric, the guitars going off and blinding, trudging through timelines and burning until everything is mere ash. Closer “Torches Illuminate the Bleeding Walls” enraptures for 12:33, slurring in and basking in bright moon beams. Face-pummeling playing unloads as the synth gazes, and everything feels like is spills into a spacious cavern. Glimmering notes spark as the ground begins to rumble, and then the soloing takes off for the sky. Shrieks mangle while the slicing intensity makes itself a greater force, classical-style guitars give off a time-drenched aura, and the melodies merge into a sound cloud, the final breaths landing in the soil.

Carving out a unique path in black metal is nearly impossible in this era, but Vile Haint have something the rest have missed, mixing in the haunting Southern gothic vibe into what’s otherwise hyper-violent terrain. “Sacrificial Baptism in Murky Waters” is another giant step into the creeping shadows for this band, and each drop of this makes your brain think strange things, your eyes see objects that don’t even exist. This is ghostly and tormented in the best way, shaking your spine and soul with quaking hunger.

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