Hive Mind Narcosis
Review by Ves on May 8, 2023.
Think back to 2014 and try remembering all the good things that happened that year. Having a hard time? Yeah, that's understandable. After all, it's been almost 10 years. Just as a brief reminder, 15th of April 2014 marks the day Sacred White Noise, the debut album by Canadian band Thantifaxath and also one of my all-time favourite pieces of music, was released. Does that mean everything beyond this point is going to be very biased? Yes but hear me out anyway.
Let's begin with a brief refresher, in case Sacred White Noise hasn't been in your rotation as much as it has in mine over the past 9 years. Thantifaxath's debut album is a perfect mix between progressive rock oddities and the raw emotion of black metal. From the disorienting changes in tempo and time signature, riff variety, discomfort-inducing dissonance in guitar leads, to the pummeling blast beats, nasty guitar and bass tones, and bestial vocal performances, the album keeps you on your toes from start to finish. Sprinkle in eerie transitions in the form of violins or choir, and you have yourself a masterpiece. I am as high on this album today as I was when I first heard it in 2015. After a slightly underwhelming EP released in 2017 (underwhelming only by the standards set by the band's debut, mind you), before us is their sophomore album - Hive Mind Narcosis.
From the first chord and melody the sound is unmistakable. The gritty tone, the uneasiness-inducing note choice, and the chilling harsh vocals suck you in as 'Solar Witch's atmosphere starts building around you. With multiple tempo changes, stop-and-go patterns, and more interesting melodies down the line, the opener leads nicely into 'Surgical Utopian Love', almost 11 minutes in length. The rhythmic complexity disorients you, the melodies make the hairs on your arms stand, and the vocals rip your heart out. I cannot praise this song enough, as it hits all the spots for me musically and emotionally. A sinister mid section leads into a 7/8 riff which the band explores to its limits but not a moment more than necessary, closing the song with a synth melody growing in intensity until it perishes in a wave of noise. On 'The Lost Wisdom Of Wolves', the band starts of with a minute of straightforward black metal riffage and blasts, before the song starts unravelling into beautifully crafted layers of melodies, stripping down one by one before nothing is left but a howling wind. The fourth track, 'Burning Kingdom Of Now', is yet another grand piece which builds layers upon layers of sound and melody patiently before turning to chaos. The track is in 9/8, which may sound superfluous but it does not feel overwritten. On the contrary, all the riffs flow very naturally from each other throughout the cut. 'Hungry Ghosts' emerges from the ruins of the previous track as a simple drum pattern playing over a reverb-soaked melody. The rest of the band comes in promptly with a multitracked vocal narration, which has a suitably uncanny valley feel. This is taken further when the track heats up, with the drumming having the same effect on me as the London underground during a signalling fault - you're never sure whether you've reached your destination or just standing in the middle of a tunnel, being jerk about by the breaks and acceleration. I've had this album on repeat for the past few days, and whenever 'Hungry Ghosts' comes up, I immediately drop what I'm doing so I can focus on the song. This is no background listening material, and I love it all the more for this. The penultimate track, 'Blissful Self Disassembly', is a noisy atmospheric piece for the most part, exactly of the kind one might expect based on the debut album - the otherworldly voice towards the end of the track give me chills just thinking of them. The track dissolves into a dissonant tremolo guitar riff which quickly turns into the closer, 'Mind Of The Sun'. The song is marked by my favourite vocal performance on the album and a guitar arrangement which I can only describe as dizzying. The stereo guitar tracks sound out of phase just enough to make you think something's wrong. Naturally, the faster sections of the song are absolutely crushing, with the whole band coming together behind the blast beats to deliver exactly what you thought was brewing behind the layers of dissonance. And, just when you thought we have reached the apex, the album ends without warning, care or excuse. All that's left behind are silence and a feeling of incomplete release. As if you are forced to accept something you'd strongly opposed forever.
The cold atmosphere and surgically precise performances are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what makes this album a perfect one for me. The production gives enough space to every instrument to shine individually, while tying them all together in a cohesive wall of sound. The manic time signature and tempo changes which, upon my description, might put off listeners used to the unnecessary overuse of similar concepts in music in modern metal make this album the cold spiral into the void that I was hoping it would be. Each melody takes you a step further towards oblivion, each drum hit erases the path behind you. The only moments of respite, ironically, are the blast beat sections which you keep clinging onto as a leitmotif, while trying to make sense of the rest of this masterpiece. If you like your metal nihilistic, crushing, disorienting, and leaving you reaching for the replay button over and over again, do not miss Hive Mind Narcosis.
Rating: 10 out of 101.57k