As I was prepping to write this review, I found myself wondering how long it’s been since there was as much anticipation for an underground metal release as there is for Spectral Voice’s long-awaited first full-length Eroded Corridors of Unbeing. And then it hit me – it’s actually only been a little over a year. That record? Blood Incantation’s Starspawn, which regular readers of this site should remember got my nod as 2016’s Album of the Year. And that fact is either incredibly ironic or oddly apropos, given that Paul Riedl (guitars), Morris Kolontyrsky (guitars) and Jeff Barrett (bass) currently play in both bands.
This leads me to two conclusions:
- Messrs. Riedl, Kolontyrsky, and Barrett are really good at this whole metal thing.
- Dark Descent label head Matt Calvert is either a fucking genius or the luckiest label-owning bastich on the planet for finding and signing these guys before anyone else got the chance. I’m going to go with genius, since it’s not like the rest of the DD roster is filled with slouches, either.
What’s more remarkable, though, is how different the two bands actually sound from each other in spite of their shared membership. Of course, the guitar/bass tones and overall production sound remarkably similar, but that’s really where the overlaps end. Whereas Blood Incantation looks to the cosmos for the inspiration for their cavernous, old-school brand of death metal, Spectral Voice are more apt to drag listeners down into the same murky abyss as bands like Evoken, Anhedonist, Inverloch, and, of course, dISEMBOWELMENT. For the most part, the riffs stay in the slow-to-mid-tempo range, the atmospheres oscillate between eldritch and suffocating, and the vocals sound utterly inhuman whether drummer/vocalist Eli Wendler is utilizing his subterranean growl or his impossibly-to-classify higher range. Needless to say, it’s utterly brilliant and another strong contender for album of the year.
It also one of those albums that I don’t want to spend too much time unpacking in a review, because it’s so fucking good that I don’t want to ruin anyone’s first experience with it. Since “Visions of Psychic Dismemberment” has been out for a couple of months, though, I feel like I can talk about that track, which is convenient since it’s probably the highlight of the album. A 14 minute behemoth of a song, it starts off sounding like someone dragged the Peaceville Three bands through a pit filled with wastewater runoff and broken glass. There’s some melody in the opening twin guitar parts, but they don’t sound happy about it, and the verse riffs sound like even crustier takes on the Gothic-era Gregor Mackintosh playbook. From there, though, shit takes a left turn as the song transitions into several minutes of hellish soundscapes before bringing back the heavy for a monolithic closing section that deteriorates into several minutes of harsh noise. The track is breathtaking, and the rest of the album is very nearly matches the high bar it sets. Other highlights include the moody “Terminal Exhalation” and the more up-tempo “Lurking Gloom,” but the band doesn’t make a misstep on any of the album’s five tracks. Simply put, Eroded Corridors of Unbeing rips tits from start to finish.
So in the end, the anticipation for Eroded Corridors of Unbeing is completely justified and then some – I full well expect to see it sitting at or near the top of many a critic’s year-end lists in a couple of months (very likely including my own). I don’t know how long the Denver-based Cerberus that is Riedl, Kolontyrsky, and Barrett will be able to maintain their unfuckwithable pace, but I’m going to enjoy the hell out of it while it lasts. Though as a side note, if any of them happen to end up reading this: maybe limit yourselves to a couple of splits next year instead of a new full-length from either Blood Incantation or Spectral Voice? Not only might it help keep that well of ghastly riffs from running dry too soon, but other bands do deserve a shot at topping year-end lists every now and again.
Eroded Corridors of Unbeing will be available on October 13 via Dark Descent Records.
Clayton T. Michaels (Senior Editor) is a mild-mannered college English teacher by day, and a craft beer drinking, black metal and grindcore loving misanthrope by night. He’s also an award-winning poet and rabid Red Sox fan. Send him your promos at [email protected] You can also find him posting pictures of black metal cassettes and beer can labels on Instagram as @ironhops.