Review Summary: Atonal collective unconsciousness
Without a clear linguistic origin or meaning, "Thantifaxath" is (most likely) a made-up word that may have been adopted by the anonymous Canadian collective for its evocative and enigmatic qualities associated with the unconscious mind or the dark aspects of the self. The expression itself conjures up a sense of disquietude and otherworldliness. In esotericism, it is common to create unique terms to describe profound or arcane ideas that are beyond ordinary human understanding. For the time being, this is purely speculative as, to my knowledge, the mysterious black metal entity has never explained its meaning, leaving room for ambiguity and personal interpretation, which benefits both the artist and the listener. Thantifaxath's formula feeds on this supernatural miasma, roaming through dissonant avant-garde territory and unsettling atmospheric soundscapes that give them a metaphysical aura above mundane reality akin to their contemporaries Deathspell Omega, Dodecahedron or Blut aus Nord, but occasionally unveiling a more progressive layer, in the classic sense of the genre. There is a feeling of fall in Thantifaxath's music, especially since Sacred White Noise
, paradoxically materialized by the successive ascending note progressions that purposely drag it down rather than up, like an invisible hand that won't let you stay afloat. This downward spiral and fascination with the human voice, particularly choir overtones and its more disconcerting and sinister harmonics, are the collective's most distinctive traits, which thankfully migrated to their sophomore studio album, Hive Mind Narcosis
By choosing the painting "Vuelo de Brujas," also known as "Witches' Flight," by the famous late 18th and early 19th century Spanish artist Francisco Goya, the Canadian trio attaches a pictorial representation of superstition and ignorance to an album title that seems to suggest a state of collective unconsciousness, which can be interpreted as a critique of modern human society that often favors the cozy consensus of majorities over rationalism and facts. A concept that according to the band presents two levels working in dichotomy with each other - "On one level there is a strong resistance to something, and on the other there is a total acceptance of that same thing”. Once again, Thantifaxath explores the ambiguity and subjectivity of personal interpretation, reinforcing the enigmatic and unsettling nature of their music. The aforementioned free-fall feeling kicks in immediately, with opener 'Solar Witch' slowly drawing us into the void through an unsettling ascending sound orbiting an intricate drum crescendo whose dynamics somehow remind me of Ad Nauseam's unconventional time signatures. There's a polished and restrained, almost academic look and feel to this song that subtly distinguishes it from the previous release, Void Masquerading as Matter
, as if it were the refined work of a more experienced craftsman, fully aware of his craft. It is, nevertheless, a continuation and not a rupture; consistent with the band's DNA, remaining for the most part true to their identity and stylistic routines. The dissonant guitar pattern that kicks off the track's second half, reminiscent of 'The Bright White Nothing at the End of the Tunnel', and the choir patch on the sci-fi-esque 'Blissful Self Disassembly', are among the finest examples of this bond with the past, while reassuring early fans that they're in for a (familiar) ride. Hive Mind Narcosis
features no ordinary or sloppy moments, everything is meticulously crafted to deliver a bewildering sonic roller coaster. Fast tempos mingle with slow-paced sections in an intricate musical script driven by a vicious, mostly dissonant riffing and a baffling, yet incredibly precise rhythm section that operates like a cosmic metronome. The music lies somewhere between the abstract and the surreal, at a sensory crossroads. While songs like 'Surgical Utopian Love' and 'The Lost Wisdom of Wolves' exude the collective's more irreverent side, despite their tempo shifts and stark contrasts, 'Hungry Ghosts' mirrors their more avant-garde and experimental personality, in a remarkable complementarity. Everything is interconnected, gravitating to the same musical idea, and its whole (Hive Mind Narcosis) intertwined with what preceded it, in a complex web that lends a sense of unity and purpose to Thantifaxath's music.
While it is up to each of us to interpret the meaning behind Hive Mind Narcosis
and the cryptic messages lurking through its dark cracks, its conceptual and musical grandeur is undeniable; not only for what it represents individually, as a superior singular chapter, but for what it stands for collectively when linked to the three previous works. There is a somber and paradoxical sense of cosmic structure in Thantifaxath that seems to result from their oeuvre’s interactions, as if mirroring the gravitational interplay between matter and dark matter and its metaphorical impact on the collective mind, which in the eyes of the Canadian trio, is currently unconscious. The question now is whether we will ever be able to get out of this state of collective hibernation, and I have a hunch the answer isn't on social media.