So when I think of atmospheric death metal, I’m usually in the headspace of something like Proclamation. So basically death metal that’s approached with the same hateful disdain for restraint and production as raw black metal. I’m going to have to adjust my frame of reference after hearing Phantom Indigo by Seputus though. This is definitely an album that I would describe as atmospheric, but more in the Portal sense. As in something that sounds like a sheer cacophony, where splintering pillars of sound are clashing with a multitude of hostile surfaces all at once. This is in contrast to my previous conception of the genre, which was metal written and recorded in a space steeped in smoke, lined with heavy draperies and blood-scented candles.
Phantom Indigo is Seputus’s second album and follow up to 2016’s Man Does Not Give. Seputus is comprised entirely of members from another experimental New York City death metal band, Pyrrhon, and the album spots some very menacing guest appearances from Artificial Brain guitarist Dan Gargiulo, Replicant guitarist Pete Lloyd, as well as others. As you can expect from a band formed out of the depths of Pyrrhon’s mind swamp and talent pool, Phantom Indigo is a technical album. Highly so. Possibly even to a fault.
“The Will To Live” erupts from the fissure of the band’s collective consciousness into a psyche splaying cleave of compulsively contorting black metal guitars, sediment pouring sludgy fills, and Doug Moore’s vocals, which I can only adequately describe as a pig-lizard hybrid, fending off someone trying to garrot it, and winning. “The Learned Response” is slightly less violent sounding, preferring a more brooding death-doom approach, which is kept on the rails by a Hawkwind-like, cloud-surfing guitar melody, a feature that acts as both the tracks spine and compass. Most of the songs trade these species of blurry, inward peering investigations, like an acid rocker who overdosed on their own ambitions and somehow come out the other side wiser for their mistakes. This is definitely true of the lysergic, grey-matter earthslip of “Tautology” as well as the quizzically constructed, perspective inverting “Deuteragonist,” but most other tracks as well.
The weird psychological texture and profile of the Phantom Indigo seems to flow in part from the source of its inspiration, namely the book Hallucinations by neurologist Oliver Sacks. Sacks life work with extreme forms of neurological disorders was profiled in the 1990 film Awakenings starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, about patients suffering from encephalitis lethargica, or sleeping sickness, a disease that leaves the victims in a statue-like state where they rendered speechless and motionless- aware but unable to act. Hallucinations is a more expansive read than Sacks’s work with patients with sleeping sickness, in that it recounts visions and hallucinations experienced by his patients in an attempt to better understand the structure of the mind. Sort of like tracking how water seeps through the earth in order to find an aquifer. You can think of Seputus as engaged in a similar kind of experiment on Phantom Indigo, as a mind-mapping exercise, to locate the hovels in your head where ghosts and repressed thoughts linger, hungry and undying.
You can buy and stream Phantom Indigo below via Bandcamp:
Phantom Indigo is out via Willowtip Records. You can pick it up on vinyl here.