Review Summary: Interplanar hellfire
Raul Gonzalez is a master of his craft. The Dan Seagrave of the modern age. His hand-painted images have defined the aesthetic of innumerable death metal bands to create a fantastical purpose and clarity to the music. There’s something so essential to his style that just gels, and is an integral part of what makes so many great albums what they are. Of course, the music itself plays a significant role, but there’s something so comforting
about the consistency of artwork defining the atmosphere of each record, setting the tone and mood for each obelisk it represents. And Severed Monolith
is represented first and foremost by the ripping corpse torn by lightning and floating through the vortex of an impossible cosmos, and Gorephilia’s soundtrack behind the art is equally vicious and compelling in its imagery.
The album tears through styles of blistering, discordant guitar work, rumbling and gore-ridden bass lines to reverb-laden vocals that underlie the chaos. The complex drumming on display here is almost easy to overlook when all the instrumental elements of the music come together so naturally. Thunderous and heavy blast beats are accompanied by nuanced and deeply satisfying fills and cymbal-work, and each track undergoes changes from more technical passages to doomy, rotting grooves. Opening track ‘Interplanar’ does a wonderful job of pacing itself through each riff before the final breakdown. ‘Harmageddon of Souls’ shows the band’s greatest technical strengths right off the bat with the amazingly tight production that accompanies such dense and detailed music. The entire experience is incredibly crisp, but never sacrifices a layer of murky, foggy gloom that holds sway over the entire tone of the record.
I’ve always been drawn to the types of albums that take the time to work in atmospheric interludes or intros and outros. I’ve heard a lot of people over the years say they just skip them or pass them off as filler, but to these ears they’re just as integral and to be taken at face-value as the artwork. An interlude will usually convey a tone or presence to the music that can’t as succinctly be portrayed through a fiery death metal track. Some passages of music may evoke many images, but it’s the artwork and the atmosphere set by these smaller pieces of the whole that lay down the context and grounds for these images to appear. It’s hard to imagine anything else but the relentless and unyielding power of the alien and surreal when tracks like ‘Words That Solve Problems’ and ‘Eternity’ play and the artwork is displayed in front of you. But then the untitled closing track subverts that feeling with a very human, very grounded piano piece that steals away this cosmic aberrance and ruins a bit of the lustre the music was owning just moments earlier in the previous track.
Gorephilia also fail to live up to this aesthetic consistency with their song titles. While titles like ‘Interplanar’, ‘The Ravenous Storm’ and ‘Return to Dark Space’ keep up this illusion, the influence of imagery alone is broken when titles like ‘Hellfire’ and ‘Words That Solve Problems’ distinctly remove the music from its original path, along with other titles that tug the concepts in different, varying directions. A petty squabble, surely, but the illusions of a place, a fantasy and an intoxicating and consistent overtone are what make death metal so special. The best albums in the genre are masters of defining these things within moments. From looking at that cover and reading the tracklisting, the mood is already set. Gorephilia undermines this innate connection with inconsistent titling that can make finding a mood more difficult than it needs to be.
is a brilliantly paced and quite detailed album. Each song features several layers of tight, technical and varied music that only engages interest more and more over each subsequent listen. Penultimate track ‘Crushed Under the Weight of God’ displays this songwriting prowess with incredible nuance in its nine-minute runtime. But with its vast influences and erratic aesthetic tone uneasily hanging over every facet of the music, it can be hard to suspend disbelief and fully immerse yourself within its style. With perhaps an iota more care when developing the lyrical concepts, the song titles and the unity of its interludes to fit completely in line with one another and with the monstrously perfect artwork, Severed Monolith
could have been a modern classic -- but it’s in those stupidly insignificant details that it loses me.