[Cover art by Alex Eckman-Lawn]
When you see a movie like Annihilation, it tends to stick with you. Its desire to put horrifying images in the brightness of daylight and rainbow shimmers added an extra layer of unease to all it had to offer. Personally, this is true to the point that almost any eerie image in flashy neon makes me think of the movie. While the connection is rarely apt, Seputus’ sophomore album Phantom Indigo along with its split-head cover is a spliced piece of connective tissue that works. These six tracks blend multiple sources of metal’s DNA with the alien talents of ¾ of Pyrrhon making any form of genre tag largely inept.
Drummer and guitarist Stephen Schwegler is the primary writer behind the band and it shows because this album is a goddamn drum clinic, particularly on the second track “The Learned Response.” The intensity of the first track is kicked up to another level as Schwegler is absolutely relentless here. Even at the 1:20 mark when the guitars are holding longer open notes, he is sitting behind them hitting about 30 different parts of the drum kit at once. This track offers another lead that sounds like it’s on its death bed sporadically coughing up the final blood-soaked notes of its last will and testament. The closing two minutes of drumming are a wonder to behold.
For much of Phantom Indigo, one guitar riffs while the other flays the ears with noise. That approach makes the moments where all the instruments lock into together all the more impactful and the opening stretch of “Tautology” is a great example. It manages, however, to add another interesting wrinkle in the genre-blending department as the simpler repeated style of riff has more in common with the sludge and battery of Black Sheep Wall than most of the technical black or death metal you were likely thinking of up to this point. In fact, the late part of the song offers continual blasts and rolls while the guitars proffer a downtrodden trudge against an almost uplifting bass pattern that hints at a hideous Frankenstein take on post-metal.
That post-metal sensibility, without its aural qualities, continues on during the ten minutes of “Deuteragonist.” Much of its runtime is at a slower repeated pace like an Inter Arma song being ripped apart in a tractor beam. The surprises don’t end there as a late stretch of the song drops everything for some clean plucked notes that lead to an open jamming passage that even Frank Zappa would probably enjoy before unleashing a final two minutes of blast-happy insanity.
While the centerpiece of the title track is still an orgy of noise, it otherwise exhibits Seputus at their most locked-in and riff-oriented. The first big riff to drop is a deranged hostile, yet rocking Mutoid Man lick that those upbeat chaps could never write. That’s just one of many riffs to appear in the closing track, but they all come through with less chaos and a stronger ability to hook the listener than in most of the other songs.
Phantom Indigo is a dense album that rarely sits in any one spot for very long. Repeated passages are often given extra flashes of drum notes against the main beat making it so the listener is never at ease. The constantly morphing songs never allow you to settle into anything, but also make it so you can never really get bored. With only six songs in 50 minutes, the album covers a ton of ground in some lengthy songs. Sadly, that approach will turn some listeners away. Even after listening to this album at least 10 times, I still feel like I’ve only truly processed half of it. Every spin offers a new nugget or reference point.
Any album that can make me think of Ingurgitating Oblivion, Krallice, Pig Destroyer, Mutoid Man, and a myriad of other bands in the same 50 minutes, is one I can’t wait to return to over and over again. What’s even better is that while glimmers of those disparate styles all come through, Seputus’ brand of beyond The Shimmer Annihilation is one all their own with a blend of genre tags that shows no blemishes or stitches.