Spectral Wound

A Diabolic Thirst

Written by: AP on 03/01/2022 17:00:27

Over the years, the Canadian province of Quebec has earned a reputation as one of the most prolific and diverse sources of black metal, particularly of the style that continues to keep the genre’s foundational flame alive. At the pinnacle of this movement sits the Montreal-based act Spectral Wound, whose ferocious primitivism and penchant for creating spellbinding melodies on their sophomore album, 2018’s “Infernal Decadence”, did not go unnoticed, attracting the interest of none other than Chris Bruni — the visionary one-man army also known as Profound Lore — and leading to their signing with this legendary extreme metal record label shortly after. The relationship has since borne fruit in the shape of “A Diabolic Thirst”, which had me wooed long before its release by the sheer virtue of its lead single “Frigid and Spellbound”, certain that if the record held the same standard throughout, it would feature on not just mine, but many an end-of-the-year list. And some ten months since the premiere, the prophecy has been fulfilled.

As hinted at in the above preamble, Spectral Wound’s music celebrates the late ‘90s and early ‘00s style of melodic black metal that has its roots in the grim Norwegian wilderness. But it also contains influences from the Cascadian take on the genre pioneered by artists such as Wolves in the Throne Room, with the traditional features of speed and ferocity bolstered by sections of sweeping tremolo riffage that breathe an earthier atmosphere into the tracks. Opener “Imperial Saison Noire” shuns introductions, unleashing the kind of immense, blastbeat driven storm that has rendered the earliest works of Gorgoroth, Immortal et al. so timeless. The guitars of Patrick McDowall & Sean Zumbusch roar with a bleak and harsh tone, like the winds of winter swirling dirt and snow around the unearthly shrieks of vocalist Jonah Campbell, before coalescing into an ominous, piercing wail of a lead some three minutes in. It is a raw and frightening piece of music that remains true to the genre’s crude origins, albeit with a crisp production ensuring that none of the inherent grandeur is lost to some snooty fixation on trueness. Indeed, the band finds the perfect harmony between nerve and traditionalism, sounding every bit as diabolical as their Scandinavian forefathers, yet also monumental in the contemporary vein of the genre.

Nowhere is this intricate balance more pronounced than in lead single “Frigid and Spellbound”, which is one of those cuts that makes it obvious from the very beginning that it has something special to offer. The thunder of Jordan Kelly’s blastbeats, the gloomily cascading guitar melody and Campbell’s shrill, unhallowed growls in the opening minutes bestow upon the song a wintry magnificence reminiscent of Taake’s modern classic “Noregs vaapen” from 2011, before a glum acoustic interlude sets in with crows cawing in the background, building tension until a majestic crescendo erupts and reveals one of the most spellbinding and unforgettable tremolo leads in recent years. Its transcendental nature carries over to the brutally titled “Soul Destroying Black Debauchery”, another harbinger of the apocalypse in which Kelly tempers his onslaught with a handful of groovier rhythms, and thus allows bassist Sam Arseneau-Roy to justify his presence by bringing more density to the downtempo passages and harmonising the windblown melodies of his axe-wielding colleagues in the faster segments.

The aforementioned track is also emblematic of the variety that exists on the album as a whole, fostered by the quintet’s penchant for progressive songwriting. Unsurprisingly, this is best heard on its longest composition, “Mausoleal Drift”, which follows a compound duple time signature as it evolves from slow and haunting dirge à la Mayhem’s iconic “Freezing Moon” into a frostbitten maelstrom that would not sound out of place in Immortal’s Blashyrkh universe, and then delivers a grandiose climax Wolves in the Throne Room would have been proud to have written during their “Black Cascade” era. And in the tail end of the record, “Diabolic Imminence” offers a glimpse into the cradle of black metal with raw, punkish riffs and a hostile atmosphere, ultimately fading out into the sound of a crackling fire and raindrops lashing at the windows, sustaining the tremendously bleak atmosphere of the record until the very last breath.

Although there must be recommendations and they are given below, there is not one song on “A Diabolic Thirst” that does not deserve to be heard in detail. The album succeeds not by virtue of delivering grand innovations, but by returning to the essence of black metal — something that is becoming quite rare in this age of the avant-garde and the experimental. Thus is you are looking for a band hellbent on stoking the old fires, and on creating black metal rife with danger, disquiet and other unpleasantries, look no further than Spectral Wound’s latest and greatest opus yet.


Download: Frigid and Spellbound, Soul Destroying Black Debauchery, Mausoleal Drift
For the fans of: Forteresse, Horna, Mgla, Sargeist
Listen: Facebook

Release date 16.04.2021
Profound Lore

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