(Debemur Morti Productions)
Swedish metal enigma Terra Tenebrosa return in 2016 with yet another dense and genre-defying full-length recording titled The Reverses. This new 48-minute work follows the mysterious Breach-born act’s previous critically-lauded outputs, The Tunnels and The Purging. These aforementioned records showcased a band dead-set on creating something insurmountably heavy, difficult, frightening and wholly different. “Avant-garde metal” is probably the most applicable label for this band’s music, as it is a catch-all term to describe a myriad of difficult to characterize acts. But even that term may be a disservice to a band whose sound really does transcend genre pigeonholing at every turn. It is really up to the listener how they want to describe it. Terra Tenebrosa’s sound rests at the crossroads between all things heavy. Black metal, death metal, groove metal, hardcore and a nuances of nearly every genre and subgenre of extreme music can be heard writhing in the mangled, ever-evolving mass that is their music. The Reverses is the next logical step for the band and continues their sonic tradition of throwing more malevolent sound at the listener than they can handle.
There’s been a small but noticeable evolution between each of Terra Tenebrosa’s releases. It would seem that with each new effort the band begin to create more direct (well, as “direct” as this band can be) and primal works that are still deeply rooted in abstraction and general oddity. With The Reverses, the band opt for more vicious songs that grasps the listener in their jaws and tears them to shreds. The album begins with the haunting experimental noise piece “Makoria”, which leads directly into the tumultuous stampede of riffs that is “Ghost at the End of the Rope”. At the sound of a church bell, the band unleash full sonic hell on this track. Guitars churn out this massive galloping groove that is smothered in layers of sound and instrumentation, while concussive drumming lays the landscape around it to waste. At the heart of this hellacious wall of sound is The Cuckoo; the band’s central enigmatic figure whose effect-drenched vocals plunge the listener into a terrifying realm of extreme metal surrealism.
“Ghost at the End of the Rope” ends with a section of creepy atmosphere that bleeds into the next track, “The End is Mine to Ride”. In fact all of the tracks, excluding the closing number, ends with some kind of spooky outro. While these little interludes are all different and are all a bit unsettling, having them between every song comes off as a tad redundant. “The End is Mine to Ride” explodes out of the gate with monolithic sludgy grooves, leviathanic bass lines and a world-ending percussive stomp that are all propelled by The Cuckoo’s acidic vocal stylings. The songs’ industrial-adjacent crawl sounds like a Godflesh song covered by hellspawned deviants. Another raucous tune on this opus worth touching upon is “Where Shadows Have Teeth”. The track wastes no time pummeling the listener with monstrous guitar chords and throbbing bass lines that are intertwined with serpentine, black metal-adjacent melodies. As the throttling track progresses, the band’s entire arsenal of sounds and instrumentation collide in one tremendous cacophony that is sure to cause ears to bleed.
But probably most ambitious of all the tracks on the record is the closing tune, “Fire Dances”. The 17-minute behemoth begins with a blitz of catchy, yet apocalyptic guitar and bass grooves that gallop with an almost industrial rhythm. As it continues its death march, the instrumentation gradually becomes slower and more claustrophobic, casually nodding into doom territory. The song’s repetitious nature and dense, layered soundscapes create a sort of hypnotic feel that listeners will not be able to escape from. This song effectively ends what is, arguably, Terra Tenebrosa’s finest work to date. Though the band opt for more direct constructions this time around, their definition of “direct” is obviously still extremely abstract and challenging. The Reverses is a must have for fans of forward-thinking, experimental and outre metal. (Lane Oliver)