Caliginous – Reap The Atrocity

I greatly enjoy the packaging of this release: an outer paper sleeve with the Caliginous logo plus eight-pointed arrows on the back, with a black CDr (with cover) and hand-made booklet inside. It demonstrates a breed of care for ‘Reap The Atrocity’ in spite of (or perhaps due to) its format. When you think ‘CDr’, you probably imagine a permanent marker, a slimline case, and a Memorex disc hastily bundled together, not the carefully crafted setup that Caliginous has produced here. And perhaps that functions handily as a representation of the album as a whole: a simple, traditional idea made well above average by the care and effort that has gone into its crafting. The basic elements of ‘Reap The Atrocity’ are very basic and standard on their own, but have been given new life through the careful hand of sole creator Xaphlan. For a 150-limited CDr, this is much more sophisticated than you might think at first glance.

The variety of black metal you have here is essentially a fusion of Norwegian and mid-’90s French styles, with substantial influences taken from Mayhem, Dark Funeral, and, perhaps most substantially, earlier Mütiilation. There’s a fairly even split between the melodic sensibilities of the first and last artists, with the middle forming a rhythmic backbone that calls on an older, thrashier style of black metal, though such a technique is not upheld by the riffing. On the rhythmic front, and additional slight influence from Vrolok can be found in some of the faster, more staccato rhythms that occasionally pop in. Vocals are straightforward, distorted (though if distorted by the microphone or through an effect, I don’t know) screeches in the vein of most newer black metal, and with a tonal solidarity that refuses to bring Varg Vikernes to mind. This is an album primarily based off guitar and vocal interaction, with the former alternating between infernal, aggressive riffs ala Dark Funeral, modern, atonal black metal riffs that you might find in artists like Absonus Noctis or Chaos Moon, and some verging-on-depressive ones ala ‘Vampires Of Black Imperial Blood’. Vocals stretch over long sections of music with particularly dogmatic tone, forming a sort of base for the guitars (and surprisingly audible bass) to build upon.

Where Caliginous succeeds is in viewing the music holistically, as opposed to many modern black metal artists in the neo-atonal vein who feel that if they can craft enough bizarre, discordant riffs and staple them together, they’ve crafted something meaningful. There’s many sour, discordant riffs on ‘Reap The Atrocity’, but they mesh well with the context of the songs as a whole. No element feels like a placeholder, unlike other artists where the drum programming or vocals rhythms are simply stock, one-size-fits-all additions to flesh out the musical landscape. While this is a riff-based album (and a fairly linear, unfolding one at that), it never becomes EXCLUSIVELY riff-based at the cost of the other musical figures. The production, though reasonably low-fi and loud in the guitar department, is tricky enough to add depth to the music, with a submersed, ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’-style bass presence, low drum pulse, and high, close vocals.

While the aesthetics may not seem like much, Caliginous has essentially mastered the lexicon of modern black metal without sacrificing meaning or atmosphere. It is not a flashy release, nor does it need to be; in fact, I’d say that the existing 150 copies of it are enough to truly get the point of the project across. While it may be few in number, it’s quite big in stature, and so I must recommend that fans of modern black metal with an oldschool touch should most certainly investigate Caliginous. I’ll be looking forward to future works by this one.

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~ by noktorn on December 21, 2007.

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