The LP Isolate by Australian cosmic/black metal band Mesarthim opens up on a colossus note, the track, “Osteopenia” at just short of twelve minutes, is nothing short of staggering in its jaw dropping beauty and obvious ambition.
While driving and fierce, “Osteopenia” also manages a wide, cinematic view, giving the listeners an immediate impression of their own small space amongst the stars. This is the stuff of science fiction. For those without medical degrees, the title “Osteopenia” refers to a degenerative human condition in which the body cannot create new bone as quickly as it absorbs old material. The image is sickening, a body crumbling inward, eating its own tissue in a gruesome means of decomposition.
Mesarthim isn’t quite black metal… taking this concept a step forward they come across as more like black hole metal, the sound of staggering power collapsing back onto itself in a vacuum the bottom of which we still cannot comprehend. This is a sonic result that they arrive at by way of brilliant production techniques. The voices have almost vanished to the background, anguished belts from beyond reach. Thunderous percussion exists throughout, but it’s suppressed to a heartbreakingly dull murmur, a regressive quality that leaves a lot of wide-open space.
Once those drowned out screeches and recessed bass drums of the opening song ebb, what’s left behind are fast guitars, synthesizers and wide stabs at grandeur. Isolate seeks to provide rare looks into places dark metal can soar and dabble in high concept and for the most part, it works. Although the second track, “Declaration” opens with thunder backed by a piano sequence, it feels abbreviated. The song barely gets going before falling short at little more than five minutes. My feeling about “Interstellar” is that it’s an orphan of the first song, a more restrained take on the explosive opener that seems to dwarf everything that lies afterward. One has to wonder a few listens through on whether this almost could have been sequenced better, pulling that colossus back a ways to make room for the rest. I loved every song but every song in relation feels off by a click or two. What will bring me back to Isolate in spite of this flaw though, is that it achieves a rare status of an album without season. It’s neither grimy nor bleak, it doesn’t evoke winter or summer. There are nary any earthly delights for harvest.
Messarthim successfully evoke a feeling of what lays beyond the stratosphere and as the title track winnows out on a ponderous interplay of extra-terrestrial keys, that’s no small feat. They’ve delivered their listener to a place where their cosmic smallness isn’t just accepted. Being diminutive amongst the stars is welcome.