Switzerland’s Rorcal are a band shrouded in mystery. No, there are no masks or costumes concealing identity. No alter egos or stage names. Rather, Rorcal’s mystery lies in their simplicity of aesthetic delivery and reserved nature within the confines of the extreme music scene. Visually, the band exercises a minimalist approach, reinforced by the artwork of releases like 2013’s critically acclaimed Vilagvege, which appears to be a figure cloaked in a transparent robe, painted with the bleakest, rainy shade of gray. What does it mean? What relevance does it have with the music and lyrics? Therein lies the mystery.
Without asking the band themselves, it is left entirely to the imagination. In an information age of constant promotional badgering with musicians and artists fighting to stay relevant, bombarding news feeds the world over with every minute detail about themselves, these Swiss drone-mongers could care less. Sure they are present on most social media platforms, but their plight is not overbearing, and their aim is 100% about the music, so much so that the entirety of their discography (before the release of Creon) is on Bandcamp for free. And it’s better that way, because it sheds a proverbial black light on their demented brand of blackened doom, revealing the blood stains of sincerity left by such viscerally charged music. Which brings us to the release of Creon, their latest ceremonial offering.
Rorcal has never been one to stick with tradition, and the four tracks comprising Creon are laid out as such. The album appears to be conceptually based around Greek mythology and is named after the ruler of Thebes in the legend of Oedipus. Aligning thematically, each song is appropriately titled in Ancient Greek. The song lengths all extend past the ten minute mark, with opener ‘Πολυνείκης’ (translated “Polyneices”, who was the son of Oedipus and Jocasta in Greek mythology) clocking in at a whopping 14:44. But it’s ok, because the nihilistic and oppressive sound brought forth is trance-inducing in the most inviting way–so much so that it’s easy to sink into a meditative state while listening. The steady hum of tremolo picked notes, octaves, and sorrowful minor chords is a key component to Rorcal’s sound. ‘Πολυνείκης’ stays true to this, with the mid-paced post-black metal blast (possibly too slow to be called a blast, and not punk enough to be d-beat…so what is it?) providing a firm foundation for the wall of guitars and bass to stand on.
Rorcal’s Bandcamp style description simply says “black/drone/doom/satan”, and with Creon they have earned the right to move “satan” ahead a few notches. The album is rife with enough evil sounding chromatic minor chord progressions to make Euronymous’ long dead corpse blush, and second track ‘Ἀντιγόνη’ is the first indicator that Creon will be a blacker ride than previous efforts, by way of speed and melodic motives. The song starts out with what can only be assumed as a nod to Slayer, with the drums soloed out and playing a half speed version of the beginning of the Reign in Blood classic ‘Criminally Insane’, nearly to a T. It doesn’t take long for the band to ascend into speedier territory though, occasionally letting off the gas for a doomy interlude characteristic of previous efforts like the aforementioned Vilagvege. Like all the songs that comprise the album, this one is a long journey, clocking in at 12:42. Eventually the song makes a pit stop into drone territory, making it easy to get lost in thought, or if you’re doing a task, relegating it to background noise.
Third track ‘Αἵμων’ (translated “Blooded”) is the shortest offering here at 11:22, and is arguably the deepest foray into the realms of black metal. Most of the song nestles comfortably into the aforementioned mid-paced post-black metal blast, albeit with the speed bumped up a few notches. The sinister progressions are there, every note comprising the minor chords furiously picked into a hypnotizing satanic whirlwind. Creon marks the first performance of vocalist Yonni Chapette, who replaced original vocalist Christophe in 2013, who left for personal reasons. Yonni fits the Rorcal sound like a glove, knowing when to heighten his timbre to suit the mood and pace of the song. Fittingly, his highest screaming registers are present within ‘Αἵμων’, suiting the almost purely black metal aesthetic, but he knows when to draw it back in for the sludgier moments.
Closer ‘Εὐρυδίκη’ brings it back around to doomier territory for most of the first half of the song, and falls more in line with the feel of album opener ‘Πολυνείκης’. Things pick up about mid-way, and the band weaves back through the blackest realms before capping things off with a mournful, decelerating ending. ‘Εὐρυδίκη’ translates to “Eurydice” in English, who was an oak nymph and the daughter of Apollo. Without an extensive background in Greek mythology or a lyric sheet for that matter, it’s hard to decipher what significance all of this has to the music, or how the songs relate to one another conceptually. There are no recurring musical themes, but one has to wonder if the similar ideas present throughout the album’s four tracks bears any relevance. Or maybe it’s just the way Rorcal writes their music, and the way things came out on the rehearsal room floor. The point is, there are so many more questions than answers here without the inclination to do extensive research, which if that is your thing, can be part of the fun.
Creon is a moody, bleak, oppressive, and hate-filled conglomeration of the more post-metal influenced side of black metal and doom. It is the ideal companion for a rainy, overcast day with enough contemplation time to dwell in the chasms of the nihilistic mind. Meditative at times, chaotic at others, but always despondent, the tendency to drift in the mix of it all is great. But maybe this is the point, as the band describes themselves as one-quarter drone. No matter what, Rorcal have probed the darkest depths of their minds to pillage our own, and the invasion is welcome.