Review Summary: There is no moon, there are no stars
Eroded Corridors of Unbeing reasonably achieved massive impact back in 2017, at a time when the masterminds behind Spectral Voice and Blood Incantation had already built some quite considerable momentum with the latter’s debut album Starspawn, just a year earlier. While the approaches were different, what was clearly obvious was the absurd amount of creativity pouring out of the minds of these musicians, who were repeatedly crafting highly compelling, perplexed and engaging music in the realms of death and doom metal. A streak continued with Blood Incantation, who followed with an arguably even more efficacious record, but things turned quiet for blood brother Spectral Voice, who didn’t grace us with a lot of new material except from a handful of (pretty damn decent) split releases.
Seven years later, Spectral Voice’s sophomore album Sparagmos could not have been anticipated more by the fans, who were aching for the next step from this extraordinary project. The first samples of a new release, either visual or aural, were awfully positive and hinted the impending arrival of a tremendous work, at least standing up to the standards set by the band’s spearheading debut. Thankfully, the flock was not mislead and the wait was worth it, as Sparagmos has the potential to place itself among the unblemished best examples of how doom and death metal can be melded together for the production of pressuring, spacious soundscapes that challenge the perception and the third eye of the listener.
Sparagmos has a similar structure to the band’s first album, but it is more focused and refined. With four long compositions and a total of 45 minutes in duration, Spectral Voice expands its own sound and unravels a chest-crushing atmosphere through multi-layered sections of marvelous riffing at all speeds possible, knitted together carefully to produce immaculate flow and note-perfect music. Manipulation of ambiance is also employed at times but does not overstay its welcome, as Sparagmos is principally a forward thinking doom / death metal album with a clear focus on oppressive heaviness, guarantying to present ideas that you have not heard before executed in this manner.
As a natural grower, a lot of the merit of Sparagmos reveals itself the more the listener indulges in it. It is intended for the part of the audience that is serious-minded and often finds appeal in occult death metal acts (think of Sonne Adam or Necros Christos) rather than the regular straight up gorefest. While faster than traditional funeral doom metal, Spectral Voice’s intimidating presence is reminiscent of behemoths such as Evoken and Skepticism, especially in the snail-paced sections such as the first minutes of “Be Cadaver”, parts of “Sinew Censer” or the ending of “Death’s Knell Eternity”. When Sparagmos accelerates, e.g. in some moments of “Red Feasts Condensed Into One”, the intensity rises to extremes and reflects the spirit of wicked death metal bands such as Sadistic Intent, which is one of the cleanest certifications of excellence in this genre. At the middle of the same track lies a distorted flute-like sound that almost makes it look as if Imperial Triumphant jumped in the studio for a second. Never thought of finding these two references in the same piece, am I right?
Apart from the stellar instrumentation, which will have you delete all other doom / death metal you have been listening to and question the quality of your taste all these years, an absolute highlight in Sparagmos is the vocal work. Impeccable growls, soaring shrieks and painful shouting in various instances, these vocals are a the closest real manifestation of the meaning of the album’s title. Connected to sacrificial dismemberment and omophagia in Ancient Greece, the word also refers to maniacal screaming as an expression of deep sadness and psychological distress when used in a modern context. That exactly, is the palette of emotions you’re going to go through, after you have been pummeled by this top-notch album.
As time goes by, some bands get a pass of reassurance after a series of high quality releases, and you can not conceive that they would disappoint you anymore. Such is the case for Spectral Voice and their contemplative, incredible second album, which is a truly thrilling and memorable experience to go through. As with all kinds of monumental art, it leaves its mark with a sense of awe that will stay in you for more than just its mere total runtime. Dissonance and ingenuity reach new heights with Sparagmos, and one would dare to place it even higher than Eroded Corridors of Unbeing. That speaks volumes of what has been accomplished here.