[6 February 2014]
Dark Descent Records founder and owner Matt Calvert has built the name of his underground label by consistently serving on a bloody platter extreme metal albums of the highest standard. Starting a record label specifically tailored to the terror-provoking torments of subversive metal after the financial world crumbled around our feet and politicians and bankers scurried rat-like into dark corners seemed suicidal and certain to fail. Add in the fact that the music industry has been forced to its knees by millions of folks freeloading and filling hard drives full of MP3s like they’re looting during a war and you double, if not triple, the probability of ruin. But to have written Calvert off before he started would have been foolish, because you have to account for numerous variables, a sizeable one being this: extreme metal fans are a dedicated yet small sector of society who support their scene and, in a lot of cases, prefer to pay to grip their spoils—if the merchandise is worth their hard-earned cash—rather than celebrate intangibility by leeching off broke bands.
Four years on and Dark Descent has earned the reputation that regardless of whether you’ve heard of the bands it’s releasing, if you enjoy cacophonous and cavernous metal and you buy blindly, this Colorado-based label will have your back. It’s hardly surprising, then, that the first release of the year from the Dark Descent stable happens to be adequately described as “cacophonous and cavernous”: Svn Eater, the second album from purveyors of hellacious blackened death metal Lvcifyre. Akin to fellow Londoners in sects as evil incarnate as Grave Miasma, Craven Idol, and Cruciamentum, Lvcifyre are committed to presenting us, through their music, with a glimpse of the dark abyss that awaits us beyond our mortal coil. An album of pervasive ancient atmosphere, Svn Eater is like being cast into the blazing bowels of the beyond where Morbid Angel are Satan’s house band and they only play the “hits”, i.e. nothing after Domination.
“Night Seas Sorcery” is a howling gale of an opener, vigilantly paced and displaying the same beady eye for diabolical dramatics that made Bölzer’s Aura so essential last year. This song brings the cover art—a dark and stormy scene split by cataclysmic lightning strikes—to life. It opens with thunderous doom reverberations and raconteur T. Kaos’s scaly, pitched vocals, luring the listener in ahead of the inevitable downpour of chugging and rotating death metal riffs and swirling kick-drums. It also sets the tone for the rest of the album, though the songs that follow thrive on faster tempos and exist in a tumultuous realm rather than a mysteriously theatrical one—except for the finale “The Sinister Calling”, which pulls together aspects of both. Like a malodorous blast from beneath, “Calicem Obscurum”, “Liber Lillith”, and “Sun Eater” all gouge and cripple in comparable ways: echoing fills with tom-thumps used to signal changes in the course of caustic riffs, rapid-fire blastbeats, and bestial growls barked with the same martial intensity as Behemoth’s Nergal circa Demigod, without his ambition to appeal beyond the underground.
In reality, all of the tracks on Svn Eater hold the subterranean gravity in place. Melodies, though mostly atonal, are found in the fast bolts of guitar leads during dominating tracks like “Nekuomanteion”, whose sickening grooves wouldn’t sound out of place on Morbid Angel’s Covenant. Lvcifyre allow the searing leads space to be fully heard on “Fyre Made Flesh”, a track with death-stomp so brutal that Glen Benton would have branded himself with a thousand upside-down crosses to have written it. But the overall emphasis is placed on structuring the riffs they summon and how the drums are arranged around each miasmic passage to add percussive mass to malignant vocals, which are surprisingly distinctive in both delivery and tonality.
In addition to the band’s own developing mythos, there are plenty of old school traditions praised throughout this album and reconstituted with a coal-black aesthetic and a clear yet dense production, with each individual instrument audible whilst altogether capable of devouring the light. Deicide, Incantation, Morbid Angel, and the rest of the heathens engraved their legacies out of overt iniquity and unearthly mazes of occult oblivion, and Lvcifyre, like many of their existing equals (most of whom are on Dark Descent), have the same understanding of inhuman atmospheres writ large on their second studio effort, Svn Eater, a powerful follow-up to a promising debut.