The murky and amorphous style of extreme metal that has taken root in the wake of acts like Gorguts, Portal, and Deathspell Omega has seemingly become the predominate driving creative force in the underground extreme metal zeitgeist in recent years. The emphasis on weird, Lovecraftian atmospheres has infected both black and death metal, with acts like Imperial Triumphant, Artificial Brain, Pyrrhon, and Dodecahedron, to name a few, land on year-end lists with wonky, dissonant riffs, and a flair for the experimental. The trouble at this point is that when working within such an esoteric sound, it becomes difficult to carve out a niche and break out from the pack. Up and coming bands, take note: murk chords and blastbeats aren’t cutting it anymore.
But despite any propensity to be skeptical of the genre’s room for growth, the hits keep coming in the post-Deathspell world. Slovakian duo Ceremony of Silence have come from seemingly out of nowhere to a signing at Willowtip (their Facebook page has under 1k likes as of this posting) to craft their debut record Outis, a compelling and highly listenable record in this weird blackened death style that will very likely wind them a few year-end mentions themselves.
What makes Ceremony of Silence stand out is that, as hinted at above, they bring more to the table than undifferentiated cacophony — though there’s plenty of that, fortunately. No, Outis is packed with monumental riffing with the kind of standout chunky characteristics one would expect from a good deathgrind band but in the context of comically minded blackened death.
Case in point: from the very beginning of the record, “Invocation of the Silent Eye” cycles through distinctive guitar riffs that cycle through to an oddly triumphant yet sinister melodic chord progression within its first minute. In its later half, the band absolutely pummels through low death-metal tremolo-picked passages that balloon into layers of foreboding atmosphere that wouldn’t be unheard of on an Ulcerate record.
“Black Sea of Drought” and “Trance of Void” are often, for the lack of a better word, downright whacky when it comes to the extremity of the riffing, the former going from darting angular guitar lines to monstrous low-end chugging, offering a darker take on the Wormed approach at death metal guitar.
Pre-release single “Ceremony of a Thousand Stars” continues the tradition with some of the previously mentioned deathgrind-adjacent guitar abuse. The drumming on this track in particular is not only technical, but nuanced enough to bring versatility to the track and album as a whole, particularly when the middle of the track opens up and becomes more breathable. The track’s closing moments deliver some of the best use of melodic delivery this sub-genre has seen in some time.
The tempos change once “Upon the Shores of Death” rolls by in a doom and post-metallic dirge. Many tasteful solos come and go throughout the record, drenched in reverb, notable throughout the more reptilian “Arising of No Man.” Final track “Into the Obscure Light” serves as a fitting finale, with its marching snares carrying an explosion of layered guitars that herald one of the album’s must brutal moments to follow and bring the record to close.
This is all to say that Outis balances the atmospheric qualities of this burgeoning scene with idiosyncratic and technical riffing and leans into rhythmic diversity and dynamic songwriting. Each song has downright brutal and elastic riffing and writhing basslines that pop out and reward continuous listen, carried by a commanding rhythm section that knows when to overwhelm and when to reprieve. Outis is a strong debut album, making Ceremony of Silence a band to watch in 2019 and beyond while offering an early highlight to the year.
Ceremony of Silence’s Outis is out April 5th, 2019 on Willowtip Records.