Black metal is a strange and often repetitive style of music, as much as we still enjoy it and sink lots of money into those types of records. I guess we can blame oversaturation of the sound, which applies to many different types of metal, and the difficulty cutting through a lot of that to find the artists who are defying convention and logic, violating all the alleged rules and frames of mind.
Book of Sand long strayed away from the expected and even the comfortable over the course of eight full-length records that have challenged and twisted brains into mush. Yet, on the project’s ninth album “Seven Candles for an Empty Altar,” sole creator dcrf finds inventive and complicated ways to deform black metal and create an entirely different beast that—WARNING!—almost assuredly won’t go down easily. Yes, the bulk of this seven-track, 63-minute opus is grimy and mangling black metal, but there are passages where you’ll forget where you are. You’ll find yourself wandering a blackened garden, stumbling over melted blacktop, and trying to take an inventory of your mental capacity. It also should be pointed out dcrf and Book of Sand are antifascist comrades squarely in the RABM circle and lashing back against the forces of oppression. Yet another reason to support Book of Sand fully.
Opener “Speak in Tongues of the Dead” runs 10:54, and the first chunk of the song has piano driving and stirring, for at least a stretch making it seem like the entire track is a dirge in this nature. About halfway through, the track rips open, dcrf’s howls reverberating, and the playing jolts your skeletal structure. That’s all while strange transmissions char and destroy, battering your psyche. The playing swims in a whirlwind, shrieks punish, and cosmic frying shorts your circuit board. “Soft Sun on Silent Water” opens with somber black metal riffs and the vocals burning, slicing into your brain. Blinding chaos rides hard as the vocals strangle, the playing cascades, and doomy clouds get even darker as mournful sax boils in the background. “Without the Limits of Power” brings tangling guitars that repeat for the first three minutes or so, letting its hypnotic energy spread, and then stiff punches land as the shrieks surface. The playing storms hard as dcrf lets his wild vocals take hold, the playing slashes tornadically, and we’re back to our minds being melted, the energy fading into the shadows.
“Kyrie” delivers abrasive noise and organs flooding, giving off a pastoral vibe before the pressure increases and crushes. The shrieks corrode while unhinged horns trample the ground, the gates exploding and letting rivers of blood rush through. A brief halts lets you catch your breath, and horns return, cataclysm multiplies, and the power sizzles away. “The Realization of Unclear Dreams” is the longest track at 13:51, beginning with horns sweltering, organs rising, and about 5 minutes in, the black metal assault launches in full. The playing is foggy and doomy, and the intensity pulls back and forth, subsiding at times, lashing back with virulence at others. Synth zaps as screeches lace your senses, and the playing gets dizzying and nauseous, spiraling and punishing before being swallowed whole by the cosmos. “6” is haunting and stinging, combining steady drumming with acoustics and chilling winds that make you shiver. The instrumentation reeks of endless darkness, notes chiming out, elegance stretching then dissolving. Closer “A New World Waits in the Soil” is a healthy 10:36 and immediately pummels with vicious riffs and charging shrieks, the doomy ambiance encircling. Cries rattle off the walls, and the melodies begin to feel imminently apocalyptic, the dense weather front menacing from above. Spacey swirls add even more imagination to the formula, your heads fills with chaos, and the playing burrows into the ground, disappearing into the soil forever.
Book of Sand traverse terrain so many other artists fear to tread, because accessibility and comfort are elements not even considered, and pure expression of black metal chaos always is at the forefront. “Seven Candles for an Empty Altar” takes things further than ever for this project, adding different instrumentation and atmospheres to the music and creating something exciting yet shocking to even those who have been with this band since the start. This is ambitious, dark, and devastating, a record that’ll scar you from listen one and change your perception of what is possible when creating the darkest of arts.
Fiadh has a slew of other releases, a really diverse offering that touches on many areas of metal and heavy music. We’ll have a roundup of those coming up Tuesday.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/book.of.sand
To buy the album, go here: https://fiadh.bandcamp.com/album/seven-candles-for-an-empty-altar
For more on the label and to buy the rest of the releases, go here: https://fiadh.bandcamp.com/
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