Thantifaxath – Sacred White Noise (2014) — LP REVIEW


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While living in Toronto in from 2011 onward Thantifaxath became a regular presence at black and death metal shows I had attended. And due to their distinct approach as well as stage presence those attending were always drawn to their performances.

I must have seen them at least five times not including Messe des Morts II in Montreal which was the last chance I had. I’m quite familiar with their self-titled EP as well. It’s burned into my brain: practically lustrous at times while simultaneously able to explore eccentric dark textures, verging on surreal atmospheres.

The promise was there to develop further in this fertile territory of their sound, it just took some time. I saw glimpses in each live appearance. Sacred White Noise delivers on that promise thoroughly as a record that expatiates in unexpected, breathtaking ways the meaning of uncanny black metal. This is an impressive album.

IMG_8857 copyIf you’re not familiar with Thantifaxath their sound is immediately distinct within black metal, certainly in the context of North American black metal. Driven by sharp, odd riffs, bending passages of psychedelic aggression and low-end, and lush atmosphere all through three articulate and proficient musicians who remain unidentified. A refreshing, brighter refinement on what could be described as roots entangling the Deathspell Omega formula that results in a chorus of exhilarating black metal.

It translated well in Thantifaxath. That first effort is a pungent memory where in live settings the impact was always somehow stronger. Potentially because those were also the times audiences glimpsed moments of this then-forthcoming creation.

Like Thantifaxath, from the first song Sacred White Noise maintains an unmistakable energy that carries onward in each song. The difference being time since these interesting sounds first developed, where now they’re become more mature. What’s clear is this: it feels confident and complete with a clear, stimulating flow that is making new paths in black metal.

No doubt born from chemistry of the three members as this shines in the writing beginning to end. It’s what made their EP sound so cohesive as well. The bass in particular remains a significant part of the ceremony, engaging not only with a deep punch but a ‘progressive’ element matching the guitars easily when necessary.

It’s something that’s always noticed during their live performances even in the context of their already unmistakable black metal array.

When discussing flow, the production of Sacred White Noise shows a keen ear for locking down their tight, ardent sound. The instruments are bright without losing the required abrasive attack, and this definitely affects the low-end presence too. The feral vocals which while the least noteworthy aspect, still possess a distinction; they’re more controlled when casting the lyrics compared to the traditional black metal. The words however often shrouded do occasionally ring clearer than expected.

Throughout the spiraling melodies the intricacies don’t get lost though repeat listens will help reveal them. There are some subtle additions that while not unheard of add well to the surrealism.

Layered guitars cut effortlessly whether thick chords or stinging tremolos and cross each other often. Raw and distorted but definitely not traditionally “frostbitten”, it’s more electric as it pulls the listener into different atmospheres. Regardless everything that is weaved by the guitars grips tightly, impresses and entrances, all while unshaken by the clear drumming.

And this was always a busy element of Thantifaxath — certainly no less so in live circumstances. On Sacred White Noise the percussion is undeniably a compelling force beyond just blasting. Not flashy however the changes frame each moment significantly and stand out loud.

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Side A begins with “The Bright White Nothing at the End of the Tunnel”, a song that feels both unsettling and elegant. From the chaotic, cavernous organs stabbing through the opening the lead a most electrifying riff emerges, and the listener is encircled immediately. The entrance is justifiably dramatic.

Supported soon by mounting percussive onslaught and lively bass the song dives effortlessly into eerie tremolos. Crisp as fuck and a sprawling atmosphere the repetition of this riff is hypnotizing, mutating with a layer of leads and then wobbling onward.

The point where ascending/descending melodies cross one another wrapping around everything sticks out clearly, a bit dramatic but nonetheless captivating.

What it leads to, these agitated refrains where the cymbals match the tensity of the tremolos screaming higher and higher only to tumble-down, is a brilliant moment. The tone reaches a revelatory climax and brings the song to the last passage.

Calm in some ways, the dive-bombing/feed-backing lead behind the bends and whines is quite something, and grows with the blast beats added, and a chorus angelic tones layered behind it all.Afterwards the outro brings a bit of creep and noise into the mix.

Following that sorcery is a relatively tamer “Where I End and the Hemlock Begins”. While it seems not as immediately striking relative to the seraphic anxiety just heard, you’d be wrong to assume so going forward. It develops quickly after a ‘softer’ melodic intro which by itself leaves an impression, into remarkably memorable arrangements that show this LP has consistency firmly on its side early on.

The static melody is only for the first minute and then everything else comes in: a stampede of bass and percussion with the guitar slowly descending; the bass flickering technically once or twice. With sparse but passionate roars this leads into an asymmetrical, stumbling section. It’s broken down at first, chunky, but is reformed into a faster slide  with an almost light-hearted tone.

In the circling back to the opening chords, an addition of a strong lead scaling back and forth in a voiceless cacophony intensifies everything. It’s a mesmerizing climb that emphasizes how intelligent the structuring and writing is. The clean section that follows too, this extended instrumental section brings back feelings from their first album. The mutation from a distorted channel sliding slowly down, bending, signals the return of a much higher rampaging chorus; along with the cryptic words piercing the noise.

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Those last few moments are linked to a new track as eerie harmonious ‘Aun’ sampling bleeds across the record groove. It becomes haunting as fuck. The channels expand and contract, bringing the layers into and out of harmony to great effect.

“Gasping In Darkness” grows from this. I’ve seen this performed multiple times in the past, I know because that incredibly strong riff in the beginning is difficult to forget. Another moment where a direct evolution from the prior records intriguing sounds. Dark chimes and an occasional peek into light on each conclusion. What it develops into by the second minute, a soaring tremolo harmony, is something I recall vividly and it remains impressive on record.

This breaks into a slightly calmer percussive-light atmosphere where it feels like a quiet solo behind muted sounds, getting colder with a distant tremolo. A bridge emerges from this, chasm vocals stretch out over two powerful recurring rhythms.

Eventually the circle is closed, returning to the intense climb from the start and then bringing the key stinging riffs tighter and tighter; with added emphasis on pummeling kicks. I really enjoy the way this plays out as it continues to morph over time around this riff right to the end.

Introducing side B of Sacred White Noise is the song “Eternally Falling”. Now not until later near the last third did I realize I had heard this song performed several times (see above) but we’ll get to that soon.

The beginning of “Eternally Falling” almost feels like either the beginning of a The Twilight Sad song or something playing at Darkspace’s style. Twinkly with sad, cosmic-gazing atmosphere, it quickly becomes filled with stringed instruments wailing in despondence. As an interlude this is relatively unsettling. Briefly the muted clean guitars, touched with effects, surface behind the choir of mewling.

At one point the sirens cease while the astral drone continues into a fade. Then the guitars return and it is this passage I recall hearing live, obviously minus the droning first half. The core melody continues for a time while a sharp lead explores as things become more busy with percussion and bass staking some claim.

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It ends just after that crescendo but the song that follows feels strongly attached to it . As you can see in the video above, both “Eternally Falling” and the next one “Panic Becomes Despair” were played back-to-back in the second Messe des Morts festival. Two of the many new ones that struck the Katacombes with searing psychedelia.

Blasting from the start with the dueling bass and guitar harmonies furiously pacing a strong spell, the tone changing as one channel sees the riff descend past the other. A break and then the shrieking textures erupt brightly again.

There’s a moment for breath while the drumming settles, but the riffs do not stop churning, intoxicating deeply with little pangs and later splashing cymbals. Another section hitting the middle jumps between a somewhat chunky break down and recurring scorching tremolos, eventually coming to rest on a slow, crushing moment. Really heavy

For the last three minutes this very memorable procession takes over. Sharp descending chords with drum rolls flowing keep the listener hooked. Again the essence of what makes Thantifaxath unique can be felt strongly here, a moment which I recall from several performances. Slightly Deathspell Omega but less dark and chaotic with echoing shouts cluttering the background eventually.

While this continues for a time the last twenty or so seconds brings more droney sampling, and eventually transfers directly into a Neurosis-like wave-washing to open the last song, “Lost in Static Between Worlds”.

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“Lost in Static Between Worlds” is possibly my favorite. I didn’t know it back in 2011 but they performed part of this a few times, one of the first I saw was at the Soybomb HQ and a little different (obviously) from the final version.

Needless to say it’s awesome. The lapping ebb in the intro bolstered in its sadness by a return of those same strings from “Eternally Falling” only in a new melancholic vessel. This is a minimized peek into a larger passage later in this song which is quite stunning. Over time its haunting. The switch comes abruptly into distorted bliss: savage vocals, sustained chords and plodding percussion, sliding bass all collapse the quiet beauty

This turns to a beautiful ascent that become ethereal to some degree. After this first moment, then the segment heard in the above video explodes: a huge moment that becomes chilling and hypnotizing. Tremolos slicing through in stunning form from both bass and guitar over crashing drums. It is intermittently broken up bringing chaos through climbing slides from guitar and strings, each bout stranger and more anxious.

Moments like this are far grander extrapolations than even the crushing early live incarnations The riffs only get tighter from here as the song enters into a noisy, technical writhe, and suddenly bursting through into a meadow of tranquility first heard in the opening.

Only this time the clean guitars reverberate weakly along, and the bass is given a few moments as well before the suffocating last half of this ceremony starts. Distortion returned, the vocals more gnarled and clear allowing another channel of riffs to pour beneath.

When the drumming ramps to full strength a final beefy passage digests more slowly the passage before it with a piercing tremolo steadily slashing in each rotation. This part is so potent in my memory from a very early time of seeing these guys perform but even now the LP version cuts deeper.

When I first was awed by this song it was also the night I saw Thou on the same half-pipe, so it was quite energetic in that apartment. The early representation was promising and the end result here remains surprising. The main difference aside from intensity is the end: containing a good minute or so of pulsing static and delayed screams instead of just the slow fade of the song or an improvised loop.

Thantifaxath have demonstrated again the power of genuinely engaging black metal and their ability to channel it sincerely. This comes across equally in live performances so go to a gig they’re a part of if you get the opportunity. I think the only conclusion to make is this an important release this year, one which is both enchanting and feral, igniting a different black metal flame.

IMG_8868 copyNow in terms of packaging compared to the prior EP’s various pressings, there’s a few differences. The cover art in this case a cropped version of a photo credited to Jerry Cooke in The Family of Man exhibition/book, similar in grainy depressive bleakness expressing a more concentrated form of the EP’s first

Connecting the title of the new record to the packaging, the bare and austere, black and white, the framing the art and strict enclosure provide is appropriate. Including the solid disc of black wax. Admittedly a stark contrast beside Media Tree’s (Montreal) 2012 handling of the single-sided LP version of the self-titled EP (second pressing in black with a beautiful screen print on side B).

The sounds are no less rich of course.

Dark Descent Records also handled the 2011 original press on black cassettes with a thick insert, and overall all three that I have look and sound great. If you were fond of the bit of color and a slightly slicker insert then the newest record’s LP press may seem a bit ‘bare’. In the end the quality is there and the design is fittingly minimal despite the vibrant sounds enclosed — and man does it sound good on wax.

Go to Dark Descent Records and get this if you haven’t already. Thantifaxath are a vibrant presence in the realm of black metal I would recommend paying attention to and supporting. I was already anticipating Sacred White Noise as being a curve ball. They again destroy expectations: both sating the lust of those seeking foundational black metal orthodoxies while unquestionably rooting out confident, meaningful progression on top of their uncommon atmosphere.

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