Review Summary: Shade of a shadow in the glass
I’d like to think that I’m not alone in the following (probably not; I’m nobody too special): there are landmark books, albums, or movies that serve as watershed moments for one’s artistic appreciation, to the effect of seeing them everywhere, trying to trace backwards, like red string on a murder board. In my case, it's Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy
in particular. Sutekh Hexen
’s split with Hissing
summons this comparison organically, probably accidentally. (The press release made no mention of concepts therein.) Sutekh Hexen’s brand of black noise is a stone’s throw from the netherrealms of metal, like black ambient with harrowing noise. It’s not exactly rare for black metal and its derivatives to flirt with the occult, but Sutekh Hexen’s approach is unique in how it feels less like an exalting narrative, and more like actual documentation.
At times, I’d be inclined to believe Kevin Gan Yuen and co. intercepted audio signals from the lowest five circles of hell, and layered them accordingly to construct “Pareidolian". Wrath, heresy, violence, fraud, treachery: they all seem present in some form, granting a happenstance peek into both the landscape and psychology of those who reside. I don’t mean to say that Sutekh Hexen provide a turgid, sp00ky rendition of things. There is a lot to unpack, and at times if feels like several stories unfurling at once, running helter skelter in the wind and sleet. The uppermost layer is a ghastly mourning. In opposition, the lowest layers rumble like a cataclysm, devoid of anthropocentric sorrow, for this is where the damned no longer cry for their humanity. “Pareidolian” manages to be both telescopic and clinical: it views hell both from afar and in the tangles of the psyche, but rarely anywhere in between.
Hissing’s contribution in “Deserted Veins” is more akin to blackened death metal physicality, less on the outskirts, more in the throes. It’s less cerebral than “Pareidolian”, but still feasts on the same fodder. Disappointingly, much of “Deserted Veins” feels like productional flourish. The rapid static pulses, industrial clang, dark ambient passages, etc., that comprise much of the midsection all feel like exercises in futility. Compositionally, the best moments are the bookends, with beckons to Incantation
(I hear a hint of Diabolical Conquest
, I dunno) and even Portal
. Guitars soar like an aerial assault, then nosedive into the muck and murk, while the drums feel ritualistic in their dripping fervour. As with “Pareidolian”, there is plenty to dig through. Painting a free-flowing, panoramic bedlam of death metal and sludge is ambitious, and a bit interesting in and of itself, but it feels less rewarding than Sutekh Hexen’s oeuvre, conceptually.
It’s possible that I return to the Inferno
comparison as a combination of 1) it being a watershed thing, as that was the first narrative poem - and the first piece of literature pertaining to the afterlife that wasn’t the Bible - I can recall reading, and 2) I’m not sure what else to do
with this 12” split. There’s something humble in these collaborative efforts, as neither band is wholly afforded the means to grandstand their vision, so I’m inclined to wax allegoric and do it for them. Arguably, the greatest success here is how both bands, despite noises cacophonous and multidimensional, sheen a surface that bears reflections. As for what congeals on the other side of the mirror - that’s on you.