Way back in 2014, Germany’s Khthoniik Cerviiks released a demo that felt rather un-demo-y. Heptaëdrone was over 40 minutes of the kind of blistering, raw “black/death metal” that is very common on Iron Bonehead Productions, only with a higher penchant for splintery riffage and progressive touches. Plus, it was just better than about 90 percent of moderately similar bands. Sure, it had all of the reverb-drenched vocals, nasty production, and riff-blast-riff-blast patterns necessary to fit in, but from the beginning it was clear that this band was something more. In terms of both execution and quality, this was no mere demo in the traditional sense.
However, when compared to SeroLogiikal Scars (Vertex of Dementiia), the band’s proper debut full length, Heptaëdrone does indeed feel like a demo. On the new music, production has been cleaned up (to a point), things are far more varied and adventurous, and the list of influences reaches far wider. What once seemed like a slightly unique group playing a largely scene-approved form of nasty metal now appears to be a band with a constant eye on their own development. This will likely turn off some of the band’s more necro/Boneheadish fans, but that’s their loss. Celebrate growth.
So maybe, instead of Heptaëdrone feeling like a demo and SeroLogiikal Scars feeling more like a proper album, both should be viewed as necessary steps. In some ways, the music of Khthoniik Cerviiks is still a work in progress – it’s hard to say whether or not they really plan their songs, or just toss a bunch of neato ideas together – but because what they are doing is so adventurous and, dare I say, playful, their work in progress is more interesting than the fully-realized sounds of countless other bands. The sudden shifts can be jarring upon initial listens, but they’re doing far more than just shifting tempos. Riff style, rhythmic approach, drum touch, level of instrumental interplay, and more are all varied throughout to levels both obvious and subtle. When the band really changes it up, such as during the doomier moments of “SeroLogiikal Scars (Sequence 2.0: Veiled Viiral Vektor),” it is all the more effective.
It also helps that most of this is wickedly pleasing to the ol’ riff-starved ears, like some unholy merging of the Heptaëdrone sound with experimental thrash of the mid-to-late 80s. Take away the harsh, echoed vocals and raw-ish sound, and it’s easy to hear heaps of Killing Technology and No More Color all over the place (particularly if you take the latter as interpreted by Negative Plane). Wild riffs are everywhere, giving as much time to high-registered, dissonant tremolo passages as to wonky, barely-fitting-into-place lines. Riffs are backed by a drum performance that does its best to sound unhinged (slow blast, mid-paced drive, CLANG CLANG CLANG), but in truth is calculated and delivered with expertise and nuance.
At just about 45 minutes, SeroLogiikal Scars should be an easy album to digest, but these are a very busy 45 minutes. As such, it takes several spins to begin to make sense of the complete picture, and some aspects may never sink in beyond “ooh that was cool.” To help the listener along, Khthoniik Cerviiks uses a lot of lines that can only be described as… hooks. Yes, beneath all of the clangs and blasts and wiry dissonances and malevolent vocal bellows are catchy moments. Damn catchy moments, in fact. For example, “Biinary Epitome (Spyder’s Web)” utilizes trills to offset some particularly brutal moments, while the aforementioned “SeroLogiikal Scars (Sequence 2.0: Veiled Viiral Vektor)” is more subtle in its hook, simply freeing a tremolo line from its harmony for a brief moment, using its nakedness to glue the phrase together. Most effective, however, is the irresistible, utterly Voivodian passage of ascending riffs during “Cranial Leftoverture (Angel’s Pyramiid).” While this is not a “hook” in the traditional sense, it increases the intensity of the album’s finale (not counting the outro) while elevating the entire album’s sense of purpose. A hook on the macro scale, then.
For all of its great moments and nasty charm, the album is not without its faults. There are times when the maelstrom could use a touch of editing. These times are rare, and may not bother certain listeners (just about everyone hearing this album is likely to view it differently), but to these ears, the album does occasionally over-indulge. The production is also still a bit of an issue. While the tones used here are a better choice for the band than those heard on Heptaëdrone, the mix is still largely lacking in bottom end, and the fun bass work is sometimes lost.
These cracks aside, SeroLogiikal Scars is a blast, evoking a bit of nostalgia in its little details without ever using these tools as a crutch. It’s also a weird, ugly bit of madness that, odd as this may sound, is a pretty likely candidate for widespread metal appeal. Really, the hardened Teitanblood fan in your circle is just as likely to dig this as is the old fogey still spinning his Rrröööaaarrr cassette. So give it a chance, regardless of how you typically prefer to indulge in the extreme.
Besiides, any group of musiiciians that go by Okkhulus Siirs, Ohourobohortiik Ssphäross, and Khraâl Vri*ïl just have to have your best iinterests iin miind, riight?