Review Summary: sense guidance through cold obsession
Though it feels like forever ago, in the late 2000's black metal was much more dependent on the blogsphere than it is today. It was something of a golden age, with an infinite amount of sites to visit for its myriads of different sub-genres. One of the most popular at the time was a blog called The Funeral Stench. As you may have guessed by its name, The Funeral Stench focused primarily on the most abrasive black metal genres; namely raw black metal, blackened punk, and blackened noise. Everything that was posted on that blog was inherently alienating, but it was easily one of the biggest around in its day. So popular in fact, that it essentially became a taste-maker in the genre, influencing it way more than anyone could have ever expected. Thanks to the Funeral Stench, those genres gained more credence than ever imaginable throughout the entirety of the extreme metal underground. One of bands that benefited most from that time are Oregon's Cirrhus, a continuous highlight of that era who continue to make the best blackened punk available in the scene today.
Formed in 2008, Cirrhus' early years are somewhat typical of a band of their style. Releasing a multitude of poorly produced demos criminally ignored at large, the early years of the band were defined by their simplistic, yet highly entertaining fusion of black metal and punk, which at the time was still something of a novelty. Through the primitive bashing of their early releases, the band always exuded a feeling that they were capable of more, and as if to keep these unsaid promises, each subsequent release improved upon their already impressive talent. After years of releasing demos and extended plays, in 2014 the band finally released their eponymous full-length debut album, which easily stands as their best work to date and a true culmination of their unique black metal meets punk vision.
Cirrhus is utterly unique in their delivery of blackened punk. Though known for its rigidity in style, they have effectively created their own sect of the genre over the years, most closely associated with the distro CW Productions; label-mates Furdidurke, Eunuch and Bilirubin have all found a modicum of success through their respective interpretations, but Cirrhus remain the undeniable kings. Sure, they draw on the same elements as most other bands in the genre - d-beat drumming, sloppy four chord riffs and necrotic vocals - but the way they infuse the simplicity of punk driven music with the more fantastical tendencies of black metal, is staggering. It's epic without the cheese usually associated with the term. Their self-titled has refined this style further, and the results speak for themselves. Reducing the hardcore elements, tracks like the winding opener "Night Falls and Bestows Insect Fixation", uses repetition to drive home huge melodies, while allowing bursts of punk spontaneity to punctuate the waves of tremolo riffs and blastbeats. The album is certainly the band's most black metal-centric, but the deftly placed punk moments make for a dichotomy that draws out the best of both worlds.
Improving from the quality of their earlier material, Cirrhus
boasts the band's most satisfying production to date. It's still appropriately raw, but in lieu of the treble-y buzz of their past, the fuller feeling accentuates the potential for an enveloping listening experience. "Sharpened Spectacle" is easily the best example; the most melodic and repetitious song on the album, the grainy, blizzadous ambiance they effortlessly conjure is hypnotic. Behind the veil of storm and snow, vocalist Bizarre Culprit's tortured rasps are almost lost among the howling tempest, adding to the illusion of being trapped in a winter gale. The vocalist's screams are unmistakably black metal in origin, but the ever-so-slight tinge of scrappy punk snarl aids tremendously to the band's more amorphous moments. It's a testament to Cirrhus' songwriting talents that they can take such standard black metal tropes, and triumph them in a way that still feels fresh and compelling decades after the genre's inception.
Thanks to the Funeral Stench and a few other like-minded blogs, the fusion of black metal and punk is now one of the most dominant sub-genres in the black metal underground. The scene in which those sites birthed is thriving, with seemingly dozens of new bands popping up almost daily. However, even the best of these groups fail to compose such a tactful synthesis of the two musical styles as well as Cirrhus. Towering above all their "peers", the band remains the pinnacle of blackened punk perfection.