Dephosphorus – Ravenous Solemnity (2014) — LP REVIEW


DEPHOSPHORUS_RAVSOL_8021 copyI don’t know if I’ve made this explicit enough but I’m infatuated with Dephosphorus. I can trust this disciplined, generous band to not let me down in each astral grind endeavor they explore at this point and Ravenous Solemnity further confirms this.

It’s a very grounding (and fairly rare) feeling that I recall having when I first heard bands that really influenced or moved me in my time listening to heavy music. Iniquity, Mare, Absu, Cryptopsy, Led Astray, Thou, Amenra, Men In Search of the Perfect Weapon  — stuff like that cut into my memory and linked to standards of cathartic, inspiring enjoyment and creation that rarely are toppled.

Music that compelled me to try and recreate it on guitar myself, however failed or successful those attempts became on my end. It’s not easy in my mind for a band to pry its way into that area of nostalgia.

A little dramatic sure, but Dephosphorus are a band I have no hesitations about including in that circle, with Ravenous Solemnity acting as a third bulwark of sidereal majesty only securing them further in reverence for me.

Those who have kept up with them will be pleased significantly, and for those unconvinced or unaware I’d suggest it’s next to impossible for their music not to make an impression at this level.

Small changes, an unending euphoric tension that progresses from Night Sky Transform and embraces an uncertain future with what the title would suggest: a revered, voracious ceremony of stellar declaration grounded in personal, secular aggression. No stagnation, only further committal to passionate creation.

DEPHOSPHORUS_RAVSOL_8023First, I’m gonna say go listen to Axiom, their first EP, and then Night Sky Transform if you have no idea who these guys are.

Done? Alright, collect the scattered pieces of your brain and read on.

Ravenous Solemnity is their third LP and indeed the longest to date. At this time the Greek three piece have a virtually unshakable foundation weaved into their sound which allows them to reveal more of what their capable of, in longer form, with great confidence that what they take the time to cull and reap in their celestial navigation is devastating.

Really, the short form of this is that there’s just more quality grinding to enjoy.

Ravenous Solemnity is probably a little more special for the band themselves by virtue of the departure of Nikos Megariotis on the drums which was a huge part of their livid assault until this point. However the addition of John Votsis, who easily fits into and excels within Dephosphorus, is perfect. No small part because he’s been pummeling skins in the underground of Greece along with Panos and Thanos elsewhere for a while.

You can hear it in every song, straight from “Reversed Into Contraction”‘s brutal pelting right to “Vicious Infinite Regress”. Vostits is a brute that keeps shit as interesting and tight as Nikos did and that’s a challenge.

When it comes to the other aspects to the force of this band, Panos, who has always had a distinct style, is hitting the stratosphere in his vocal savaging on Ravenous Solemnity. Looking back on Axiom he’s more raspy, amorphous, and indulges in lows and growls relatively frequently. This changed a little in Night Sky Transform sure but on Ravenous Solemnity it’s distinctly notable: he’s melting ears in strained, debilitating yells, crunching lines and soaring in disorderly, oddly mollifying paces and tones.

DEPHOSPHORUS_RAVSOL_8012 copyHigh-tension ferocity entwine his vocal cords, using mesmerizing, effect laden drones conservatively, sometimes like on “Astrocyte Portal” with surprising use of effects and backed by Thanos. My throat hurts when he scrapes his chords straining in each line of stinging astro-political deviance. It’s his most severe performance yet, rarely reeling back from its heights. While I’ve always enjoyed the riffs the most on their recordings the vocals are just as front-and-center this time.

Lyrically this record is also quite pleasing. I’ll get more into specifics with each song but Panos touches on socio-political themes in a few tracks which are wrapped nicely between/into the stellar-centric visions. Alongside frantic data recollections of discoveries in the unknown of space, mind bending cosmological processes shattering our current perception, the theme of secular and progressive analysis or thought — as one would suspect with a astronomy obsessed band.

But here Panos calls out (quite explicitly) the growing and emboldened section of people on earth who are regressionist in their stance towards earth, life, critical or empirical thought, and change.

I don’t think it’d a stretch to suggest this stronger impetus in Ravenous Solemnity’s select pieces of lyricism is due to not only the socially, politically, economically volatile time we are existing in but the specific experience as it relates to Greece, history, religious forces; in general yes the bizarre push against rational positions on natural processes (evolution) is pervasive every where.

Anyway this ultimately manifests in ones art and Panos couches it well within the strong themes that already existed in Dephosphorus. It’s refreshing alongside the reinvented onslaught of celestial processes and visions mixed with sci-fi described elsewhere on Ravenous Solemnity.

Thanos’ song craft is as wonderfully bright, interesting and memorable as ever while holding on to a style that sounds natural in it’s ability to construct absorbing riffs and rhythms. Handling the bass which is a little under-represented or soft with the staggering amount to be enveloped by (peaking in some tracks more than others, “Astrocyte Portal”, “Glorification…”, “Hammer of Logic”, “There Is A Color”, etc.), and back vocals/chants in select moments.

In terms of the general guitar work this time with the longer spin time there’s a better balance on the blackened, astral sustains and slightly more stripped, raw punk assaults, without an gap or loss of what makes Dephosphorus so distinct and pleasurable to experience. Often within a single track and always very pleasurably executed. Thanos’ guitar work is as firm and exact as ever in making atmosphere unfurl from both catchy, bristling pulses and intricate, coarse patterns. The latter fans out more than ever on this record.

DEPHOSPHORUS_RAVSOL_8022 copyGetting into the bulk of the record then, much to my pleasure each time. This LP is generous as it contains fourteen songs over forty-three minutes, only once stretching past the four minute mark in all that time (the title track) while managing to ensure each track feels full, breathing.

The production has hit a sweet spot it seems too making to vivid nature of each song shine nicely. I remember there’s a noticeable difference between Axiom and Night Sky Transform in this regard but not to the detriment of either record. Just different. The guys clearly have an ear for how each form they manifest should feel and it’s working well.

First impact is given to “Reversed Into Contraction” and this next step in their journey is glorious. They always open so strong on each record and here it’s no different. Similar to the sophomore record’s outset (“Uncharted” and “Cold Omen”) felt like the seam between Axiom and itself as they grew, this song is seam between it and Ravenous Solemnity. The two guitars layered in the opening moments breath coldly in different paths crossing nicely, while Votsis’ light cymbal play gets intermittently steamrolled by wicked rolls.

The pace steps up on  his end when Panos audibly lunges. And again right away this becomes one of my favorite parts of the song. It’s on the second passage…

Awakening
Lush with death-life
Last thing that i remember
Is reversing into contraction
Reversing into contraction
Collapsing
Collapsing
Then everything was stripped away
Is reversing into contraction

… where he really sears his screams into the track through a tale of disturbing enlightenment of astrophysical processes. It’s unforgettable and a moment impossible not to repeat along with.

At that point the song turns darker into Night Sky Transform territory only for the riff to turn seriously groovy — without caring how awesome this moment is they dive right into a murky, slow section that replaces one entrancing precession for another. Votsis’ part in this is subtle behind the huge frosty riff and becomes more aggressive later but in that quiet front part it’s quite bouncy.

“There Is A Color” is one of the multiple songs here where Panos frames Tolis Yovanitis’ words in ways I doubt he’d ever imagine, and to great effect within the context of their sound. Rhythm that opens after the snare is simple and catchy and opens into a more black metal-afflicted riff. It’s slices through with the hoarse vocals clawing  along side it, and then the cliff appears and this isn’t a bouncy ride anymore.

That scathing twist comes back as each quick note rings for a moment in the astral cloud, the drums switching busily in the haze. It becomes more franitc on Votsis’ end while the sliding, spectral guitar section repeats carefully. Before the crumbling finale where shit gets really reactive there’s a bit of a brace back to the opening playfulness but not for long.

“Ancient Drone” proves to be another gem, right off the bat pummeling with distant snare and the riff that will expand. This was one of my early favorites though as noted right now it’s gold straight through. I’ve already listened to the record countless times and it’s barely been out a month. That opening pummel of snare and the intrinsic groove to that distant rhythm which smashes through wonderfully on the change in beat; it’s stuck in my head.

More aggressive from then on, atmospherics resume fully charged and unfurl as Panos describes the origins of the ancient messenger that communicates with Dephosphorus.

Then “Dark On Dark” examines life relative to the grand cosmic, immediately working with a cool slide in the opening riff. There’s a couple moments like this actually in this the shortest song on this record. Grinding through bouncy powerchords and coarse tremolo sections which I can’t help but follow intently.

DEPHOSPHORUS_RAVSOL_8013 copyBarreling into track five “Astrocyte Portal” gets pretty epic near the end. Taking the obvious linkages in the etymological origins it fits well within the expanding narrative of Dephosphorus: the correlation of these neurons and their stellar patterns with galaxies and constellations, potentially unlocking linkages in universal comprehension and knowledge under closer meditative scrutiny.

Pre-computronium decades of calculus.
Eventually a pattern emerges.
Unnoticed rogue solar system.
Seemingly escaping the galaxy.

Attracted by an unknown force.
Astrophysicists’ only hypothesis.
An invisible fabric, a blackened stream.
Upon which it sails.

Daring assumption, macrocosmic projection.
The astrocyte specimen is a portal of comprehension.
Invisible blood flows into the universal veins.
Transmitting, transporting, connecting.

Through the microscope lens.
Molecular level investigation.
Peculiar outline of astrocyte.
Sensing a possible correlation.

Opening with ab avalanche of drums and one dirty riff repeating frequently. When the vocals come in much more subdued than previous songs it’s over a steady gallop from all instruments that’s a little odd, and I like it. In the middle the vocals change pace as Panos crams those syllables in, and the astral attack rings cleanly again for a few moments.

An astrocyte portal.
Grandiose change of scale.
Molecules leading the fearless closer
To the cosmos’ mystical backbone.

An astrocyte portal.
An astrocyte portal.

Grandiose change of scale.
Molecules leading the fearless closer.
To the cosmos’ mystical backbone.

The astrocyte specimen is a portal
Molecules lead the fearless closer
To the cosmos’ mystical backbone.
To the cosmos’ mystical backbone.

It’s in the last minute where there’s some mystic coating splashed over a very tasty and low rhythm; starting from a percussive build, small at first and growing while the megaphone vocals spoken echo. Effects harmonize the last few moments of singing which really surprised me at first. Thanos’ jumps in on the chants here I believe, and they begin entangling with ambiance and rising fever, the drumming becoming particularly stand out even in this already stimulating bath of sounds.

The last moments are pretty damn strong. But then so is the next song too, “Storming The Sloan Wall”; a reference to the vast cosmic structure composed of countless galaxies and here used as a grand obstacle or strategic interstellar terrain in a massive war campaign.

No doubt strong inspirational material and it paid off once you start in. An onslaught of tremolos into a descent/ascending rhythm with Panos immediately pushing through, reaching two brief bouncy riffs; on the second repeat an oldschool solo. The expansion from this once again reaches back into Night Sky Transform territory, stirring aether until an eruption from the riffs and Panos, the drumming batting back and forth between blasts and slower furrows.

DEPHOSPHORUS_RAVSOL_8006 copy

Starting with “False Vacuum” we start hitting my anchored favorites on this album, a song who’s subject matter draws back the cold Axiom calculations on extraterrestrial/astrological phenomena (expansion of universe). However this is a song where the riffs over take all else.

The opening moments jut-out in my memory immediately, as does the soft cymbal play that develops into much heavier barrage once both channels ignite. Sliding into a strong groove it slowly develops, relaxed for the majority of its duration but growing more tense on the end of the repeat, and at some point the pointed tremolos and drumming kick in at high pace.

And a slow section opens for a moment, onyl to be bulldozed by an increasingly agitated riff and Panos’ impatient, ear-ravaging attack. By the end it’s looping in on intself over the blasting.

On the title track there’s a dip into the slow moments you heard on Night Sky Transform, for instance “The Fermi Paradox”. The difference is this is less arcane and more front-heavy, slow bendy gouges. Just ove rtwo minutes in a return to a wiry tremolo assault and then, after a playful rhythm a astral shred to disperse their patented atmosphere.

Up to this point the sons have been largely vivid recollections and logs of astrological and xenological phenomenal, cryptic cyber-punk-esque narratives on the unknown. It’s first on “Towards The Cold Mysterious Infinity” where the thematic adherence to the uncanny celestial is lessened in some sense.

Lyrically the song connects these themes with critique of who have not faced reality even in the fundamentals of empirical analysis, critical thought — fuck it, shit that helps us progress together as humans.

The poisonous malevolence of those who believe in god’s creation.
Cowardly escapism.
Too weak to assume the position.
Towards the cold, mysterious infinity.

Sworn enemies of science.
A civilization eternally torn apart.
By the war of feeling versus reason.
A civilization eternally torn apart.

Hollow pages of useless books.
Atrophying brains – perception rots.
As the findings have been pre-established.
Before research has actually been done.

Hollow pages of useless books.
Atrophying brains – perception rots.

The song itself is fucking sick. Slow with cold mysticism peering through every moment in the first minute. A slight eastern tinge clings to the ethereal clean strings (truly spellbinding) with ghostly layering, scraping and sliding behind both Thanos, and Votsis’ triple taps.

Drums start building as distortion is slightly added, and then its a burst into black grinding. On each repeat the beat switches up, until a new gallop opens up which leads to a phenomenal closing section once Panos shrieks “Hollow pages of useless books!”

The whole end just crushes on those last to lines. Easily one of my top picks here even among this truly monolithic streak of this record.

DEPHOSPHORUS_RAVSOL_8003 copyAnother example follows promptly. “Hammer of Logic” assumes a similar semi-political posture lyrically, more shrouded in allegory than the prior song. However the upfront punk/hardcore aggression to the majority of this one is different. Really catchy, mean rhythms that eventually turn into a brilliant tumbling riff right after the second passage, more calmly roared until after this moment.

Hammer of logic to fall.
Iron taste in mouth.
Smell of burning.

“The worms fear change,
They think worm thoughts”.

Inevitable recalibration occurs.
Local continuum rebalanced.

“The worms fear change,
They think worm thoughts”.
Inevitable recalibration occurs.
Hail Dephosphorus!

Hammer of logic to fall.
Iron taste in mouth.

Hammer of logic to fall.
Iron taste in mouth.
Smell of burning.

“The worms fear change,
They think worm thoughts”.

The turn to astrality is sudden, dark and floating chords and notes rock back and forth as Panos wears down slowly on the words of resentment towards regressionists. A feeling of return what makes their previous record so amazing is inescapable. The rebuilding of the song after that to the end is slower with swaying percussive bursts and heavy rhythms interjected.

“A Fountain of Daggers” interjects this burst of earthly fervor with another unearthly oath from Tolis Yovanitis as blasted by Panos. Blackened, gruff tremolos cut open the front end for a time before his disheveled shouts blot the atmosphere of the now more blunt riff. The shimmering interlude begins a trance where the vocals sit distance, and a soft humming organ supports the twangy passage; a bit of Iniquity like gloom fitting in nicely before an aggressive sidereal end. This part definitely takes me back to Axiom for a second.

The only other track that kind of takes Dephosphorus’ tone a little back to the Straighthate tone lyrically is “Buried Alive In Obsolescence”. Apart from that it’s just another despicably killer song I have not released from my mind. A deluge of twang and lite reverb layered and laced into a singular strong rhythm; the first thirty seconds prior to Panos’s entry the drumming more relaxed with a bigger emphasis on kicks, into a midpaced thrashing once the words appear.

Your putrid supernatural creationism.
The fallacies – you’re believing in.
“The Universe is not fine-tuned to life;
life is fine-tuned to the Universe.”

Feel comfortable with your imaginary friends.
Puddle thinking.
Reassuring concepts so convenient.
Toxic mental medicine filling the existential void.

You cannot assume the position.
Anchored in a volcanic rock.
Speeding across the cosmos.
Supreme Architect of the Universe… HA HA HA!

Nothing comes from nothing.
Nothing comes from nothing.

You cannot assume the position.
Anchored in a volcanic rock.
An eternal cosmos with no beginning, nor end.

The kicker really comes once Panos becomes more animated on the third paragraph, and the riff grinds into a groove with flares of dissonance. The moment of short but maniacal laughter in the face of pitiful human machinations leads to further confirmation on “nothing comes from nothing”; an ambient space opening for a moment. The turmoil returns for a good forty seconds to steamroll the reality into non-believers — a sudden return to bouncy dissonance before a sudden close.

So we’re nearing the end of this cosmic vision which brings us to the thirteenth song “Glorification of the Anti-Life Equation” the blackened edge cuts the surface on the riff with the vocals tearing into foreboding words: the hallucinogenic, euphoric overload of incomprehensible knowledge or sights of universal creation that a being unprepared in thought will confront.

Numb in amazement
Ecstatic within the awe of realization.
And acceptance.
Such is the condition of the non-illuminated being
Against the mere coherence.
Of cosmological absolutes.

Blissful through the sanctification.
Of comprehensional incapacity.
The gift of Anti-Life.
Woe to you , o Universes!

Blissful through the sanctification.
Of comprehensional incapacity.

Gone is the concept
of general relativity.
Dominant is the equation.
That prevents expansion.

Revel in the sound.
Of Omni-Collision.
Breath in parallel.
With the ghastly echoes of Catastrophe.

Such is the apprehension of the illuminated.
In conjunction with erratically reshaped Universes,
all matter of calamities are unleashed
In Anti-Life.

On the first lines he’s rupturing those words with his ruthless approach. Around the one minute mark that riff goes into more lively tremolo frenzy, and then eventually into some mesmerizing sustains. Once the vocals come back on the forth passage it’s magnificent and becomes a favorite of mine.

Astral, it progresses in monumental ebbs, with each climb bringing those organ-synths out richly when Panos starts in. He shouts sporadically, and each passage either fiercely or drained. It’s a huge moment that shows how even to the end there’s no wasted space.

DEPHOSPHORUS_RAVSOL_8011 copy

The final song shows this too. As you’d expect at this point “Vicious Infinite Regress” keeps up the energy effortlessly after such a locked-down song. Strong snare-cybal over a searing riff revolving for a minute, then into a slower break down through alternate picking. Real smooth and cool, and suddenly when Panos pierces in again casting words on the destruction of consciousness the anxious step returns in both percussion and guitar. Before a return to that beginning blow a jumpy rhythm flares momentarily.

Material-wise, their third record is no less strong than what you’ve heard on any of their releases. I’m pretty enamored with everything they’ve done with Axiom always being just slightly more stand out (nostalgia glasses yeah).

However I think Ravenous Solemnity is the point where they’re capturing an energy that was in Axiom but now tempered and machined — progressing from a bristling reaction and enormous, bewildering propulsion (Axiom), into the isolating, alarming expanse of an immeasurable astral journey (Night Sky Transform), into this where the potential that has now matured. Impacting with debris from its aura the surrounding planets, dilating its surreal sound shadow into new phases of focused, striking grind.

Much as the art would hint at too.

So this being their longest record yet it naturally is deserving of a double LP treatment. Gatefold is nothing new but as always the ravishing artwork splashed across reverse and cover spread by Viral Graphics is something else. The intergalactic knife graphic and lyrics adorn the interior.

The most colorful art in their catalog as well, the theme seems to encapsulate those within much of the songs of Ravenous Solemnity (but previous albums as well): the secular and empirical progression of thought and discovery regarding truth, consciousness, the cosmos and creation on planets spreading into the cosmos.

What looks like astral masses housed with intelligent life or its seed colliding on a planet, in the next scene scars the primitive brush and breaths the creative/destructive force of evolution and life. The resemblance to the Night Sky Transform cover design intentional no doubt. And then the two imposing black, 180 gram 12″ slices of wax housed inside used as a portal into their world of ignorance crushing sidereal enlightenment.

You know what I’m going to say. There’s no other choice, buy this or lose. Dephosphorus remain largely untouchable with their latest evolutionary step in astro-grind. Ravenous Solemnity is undoubtedly going to end up in my top five this year right alongside that new Yautja album and Thou’s masterpiece. Scrutinize it and you’ll come to the same conclusion.

Again if you’ve slept on Dephosphorus up until now then slap yourself, go listen to Axiom, Night Sky Transform, all their stuff and get caught up cause Ravenous Solemnity is just the latest evidence of their superiority.

European readers can get this from 7 Degrees Records or Blastbeat Mailmurder/Productions in various formats so take your pick! Stream it from either of those two at least. For those of you in North America like me Handshake Inc. has you covered in practically the same capacity. Don’t hesitate to be illuminated once again by Dephosphorus.

This review was originally published on Cvlt Nation February 24th, 2014.

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