For those who have spent any substantial amount of time in graveyards, you’ll know what I mean when I say every cemetery has its own personality. Some are pleasant and inviting, others morose and forlorn. Some are hostile and menacing, yet others tranquil and serene. Of course, the experience is subjective (after all, one person’s “funeral home” is another’s “mortuary”). Perhaps our observations are informed, not only by the surroundings, but by looking inward to our own relationship with death. Is it a symbol of loss? Fear? Inevitably? Peace? Awakening? Regret? The mystery of death has been the obsession of the human mind since it could fathom the very concept; it’s ever-looming shadow cast across the nexus of science, religion, and art.
While the latest EP, Burial, doesn’t stray completely out of bounds, it does show Pa Vesh En is still full of ideas. Perhaps the most glaring example comes from the fourth track in. Entitled “Pachavannie” (Shona for “There’s So Much More To Discover”), the song still retains the laboriously tortured spirit of Pa Vesh En, yet the key is a new one to the band’s toolbox. There is the faintest glimmer of hope in the chord progressions, a certain peace to be found in the slurred clean chanting across the funeral dirge of the instrumentation. Even when the blast beats add aggression to the dredging pace, it only amplifies the weighted spirit of the music. The song’s climax arrives with a violent vibrato beneath the anguished wails before giving way to a final dose of enlightenment from the ritualistic clean vocals (another new element), showcasing Pa Vesh En’s knack for utilizing the studio itself as a musical instrument, so much of the band’s sound is reliant on final presentation that every production choice must be carefully executed with ruthless intent.
Those who have been keeping up with the band may also notice other minor tweaks in approach. First is the inclusion of not just one, but two ambient tracks (the “Specter of Grief” intro and the “Embrace of Shades” outro). Largely consisting of minimalist baritone piano, both tracks do add to the atmosphere, and, avoiding the usual folly raw black metal bands tend to succumb to (or embrace?), fit within the framework of the music and production seamlessly. They bookend the 12″ EP quite snugly, and the intro in particular sets up the atmosphere in a critical manner for the band’s sound.
Most Pa Vesh En releases usually don’t have much for intros, instead often dropping the listener immediately into their signature blend of black and doom. Yet the previously mentioned “Specter of Grief” serves as the slow bit, constructing suspense before “In The Looking Glass” bursts through with an energy uncharacteristic of the band’s usual slower pace. A whole section of primitive one-two beats injects a vigorous electricity into the band’s corpse. Eventually, however, the energy gives way, slipping into a slower groove, and when that moment hits, it hits like a slide into necrotic ecstasy as any last flickers of life are extinguished.
The second overarching element of change that followers of Pa Vesh En might note is how much the production has been, erm, “cleaned up,” for lack of a better term. Burial is still quite raw and, make no mistake, still captures the familiar elements of the band devoutly. However, ironically, Burial gives the instruments the most room to breathe. The guitar on previous releases was certainly present, but required a certain degree of active listening to be exhumed from beneath the bass and vocals. With Burial, the guitar takes on a more active, almost (but not quite) equal role with the bass in carrying the hypnotic melodies of the undead forward, particularly when working in the upper register on the crescendos on “Shrine of Malice” and “Pachavannie.” The production, even with a little more space to breathe, still evokes the claustrophobic feeling of being buried alive beneath the sound. Burial, like all Pa Vesh En releases, is best enjoyed through headphones to pick up all the subtle nuances beneath the layers and layers of metaphorical grave soil compacting on one another.
While Burial does expand upon a few concepts, it still fits firmly and unobtrusively in the ever-growing Pa Vesh En catalogue, yet has no trouble establishing its own identity among its predecessors. Detractors may be quick to note that each release is too similar or the framework around the band is too constricting. However, Pa Vesh En has created a unique style; I’ve yet to find any other band, past or present, working to create doom-laden black metal of this caliber. The atmosphere, the composition style, and the delivery are all uniquely Pa Vesh En, and, returning to the graveyard metaphor, create this sandbox environment for the band to blaze its own trail through the corridors of tombs. The short-release format works well for the band, never revealing or expanding too much, keeping the sense of mystery and always, always leaving the listener begging for more, and Burial has done it yet again. I’m already looking forward to what lies beyond this monument to death.