Review Summary: A beautiful tornado; one that, in the end, puts you down easily.
Sepulcros dropped a hell of a debut on the world. I am referring to the debut album Vazio
, which translates to “empty” in Portuguese from the Portugal-based band Sepulcros, released on Transcending Obscurity Records. First things first: the aesthetic and the atmosphere stand out. The album cover is this beautiful barren landscape covered in this ethereal or extraterrestrial layer of...what exactly? You don’t know what it is but you do know that you don’t want to either. The vocals are a like a windswept haze slowly overtaking the sonic and visual landscape. The production is minimal, lo-fi, and yet totally encompassing. This is atmospheric deathgaze or funeral doom similar to Thergothon that mostly picks you up in a swirl that slowly becomes a tornado of absolutely sheer horror that then gently sets you down; or, it slowly loosens it grip on the pieces that were formerly your body, leaving you to put everything back together.
The album is perfectly paced, beginning with a short introduction (1:08) that bleeds right into the song that was first revealed to the world, the title track, “Vazio.” Vazio is just eminently listenable, which is saying something coming from a nearly 8-minute slow moving dirge that picks up in the middle for a very short duration of time with a part that borrows from grindcore. Track three, “Marcha Funebre,” is another monster of a track with a similar structure to “Vazio” except it has a middle section that is a monster breakdown that just demands that you bang your head in total surrender. But again, the track lets your down after crushing you. This is one of the coolest songs I’ve heard all year and I have heard a lot of cool music this year. If I were to show one song from this band it would be “Marcha Funebre.”
At this point, listeners know they are in for a very cathartic, yet brutal experience. It is also probably a good time to let the reader know that this album is short, comprised of four songs bookended by an intro and an outro, which, together, account for just 2:48 seconds. The whole album is a brisk 37 minutes. The four proper songs each have their own unique contribution yet they all share similarities. First, the tempos are slow. Second, the guitars create a sonic layer that is engulfing in the best way possible. Third, the drums, heavy on cymbal play, drag the songs through. But there are subtle tonal and sonic differences that after a few spins you really start to appreciate. Track three, “Magno Caos” sounds like the slow Converge tracks if Converge was an atmospheric doom metal band. This is a compliment. On “Magno Caos,” a nine-minute song (8:58 to be exact), Sepulcros drags you through beautiful brutality but instead of ripping you apart in the middle like its two predecessors, the band decides to have swirling guitars, and rumbling drums and bass lift you up instead. The track slows down in the final minute, letting you breathe. And the breath feels good.
“Hecatombe” starts like any number of Russian Circles tracks; or Explosions in the Sky; or you could even imagine the Deftones having a part like this, particularly the Koi No Yokan
-era Deftones. But that description would be misleading to a point. The track then quickly reminds you that this ride isn’t over yet and that this album is an atmospheric doom/death metal album. This is the track where the drummer shines, overshadowing the delicate guitar work. At the 3:00 mark, the band is firing on all cylinders. And then some of the most extreme bleak sounds you’ll ever hear take over. This track must be heard to be believed.
Overall, this is a fantastic debut that goes down easily even though it is extreme music that only a certain kind of listener will enjoy. If you like patient yet devastatingly brutal music, sprinkled with moments of light, this 37-minute album will satisfy that niche.