Before we dive into Antediluvian’s first full-length album in nearly a decade, a quick disclaimer is in order: There have been no fewer than half-a-dozen false starts to this review, and as I type out these words I still have no idea how I’m going to tackle this one. The Divine Punishment is intimidating. Clocking in at just five minutes past an hour, a full listen is certainly a commitment. Their brand of black/death metal isn’t necessarily known for being the easiest on the ears, though the term “dissonant” feels wrong. The word often gets a bad wrap as clunky, “loose-change-unleashed-from-grandma’s-penny-jar-down-a-flight-of-stairs-into-a-Plinko-machine” styled riffs. For every Immolation, Gorguts, Deathspell Omega, Immolation, or Portal–bands that have time and again demonstrated their mastery over this tricky beast to conquer, there are a hundred bands that do it poorly or fail to channel the melodic subtext. The defining characteristic, the X factor, is often found somewhere in the fluidity. The aforementioned bands have a natural ability to shape the flow of this scorching lava into something artisanal–it truly feels like they are channeling something from Beyond. The melodies may be atypical, but there is still a sense of melody to be found.
While the band have often felt most comfortable in the low-end, they have always retained a sense of dynamics and clarity in their production. But nothing they have created thus far has had the sheer depth in production as their latest work. The rumbling, distorted voice that utters across the radioactive static at the introduction to “Obscene Pornography Manifests In The Divine Universal Consciousness” alone sets a mood as the mind begins to loosen its grasp on convention. The guitars and drums come in, building up tension as the otherworldly voice continues its incantation, beckoning further into the unknown. The edge is reached, and what follows is a drop into weightlessness. It’s a beautiful moment; the instruments drift lazily in the ether, never colliding directly as though surrounded by a Merkabah of reverb, at least, until the blasting starts. Violent outbursts build tension across the record as the serpentine glide of the guttural vocals switch to strike mode. Admittedly, plenty of studio magic goes into crafting an archaic multi-headed basilisk for the vocals, but it only makes the production more a part of the artillery of the band. In fact, the album is Yet even as the violent turbulence hits full force on the swirling electric chaos of the solo on “All The Sigils Deep” as it strives for full overload of the senses, the chaos is decipherable. The rhythm section successfully holds on for dear life, fighting valiantly to hold the backbone and maintain sacred balance between all out noise and manifestation of chaos.
Speaking of rhythm, Mars Sekhmet’s percussion on The Divine Punishment is exceptional. The creativity happening behind the kit simply cannot be understated. The way in which she weaves tribal tom work so intuitively into the swirls of chaos around her, crafting entire grooves out of fills is nothing short of inspired–yet she also knows when to blast the skull like a jackhammer. Of particular highlight, for both the drumming and the album itself, is the excessive breakdown in “How The Watchers Granted.” Making full use of their cosmic reverb Merkabah, Antediluvian hit what can only be an improvised jam into peak-acid trip territory. The echoing ancient chants brush in and out of the song, each time ushering in a new layer of seductive auditory pain. The track concludes with a spiraling jam built around the soot-laden heart of the thunderous, tom-riddled drums as the guitar drifts atop the molten rhythm. Think Santana’s performance of “Soul Sacrifice” at Woodstock ’69–only this time the “soul” is tarnished, damned, and riddled with mockery and questionable fluids as it hurdles its way across the more bizarre corners of astral space.
Speaking of Old Man Rock References™, the spoken word numerological breakdown of the number 666 that Antediluvian unravel across the drifting, ambient tones of “White Throne” feels like a satanic Hawkwind unveiling secret knowledge to the chemically heightened mind, not unlike the prelude to “Space Is Deep” from the timeless Space Ritual. It’s not believing in the words themselves that is important, but hanging on to every word. Despite its robotic inflections, the voice still draws the listener in–it’s not unlike watching old videos of Marshall Applewhite. That man has the most boring voice this side of the 1800’s, but that cult leader factor is beyond typical charisma. It sets a breathtaking mood in the final three quarters of The Divine Punishment; the haunting ambience beneath the hypnotic, impassive voice adds to the mystique. The eerie, loose strumming creates a tension and suspense on the level of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s F#A# ∞, all up until the final phrase of “…Jesus….Chriiiiiist…..,” perhaps the only time the voice shows any human passion. The weight slams with the weight of revelation, kicking off “The Liar’s Path.” One of the most visceral tracks on the album, the vocals circle their serpentine dance, waiting to strike with the hissing echo of the whispers mimicking the forward growls, bobbing and weaving like multiple hydra heads oozing with venom and malice. The guitars find a riff and stick with if for a spell, draining every bit of magic from it until shifting to another. Off-kilter patterns on the upper register trade off with root chugging at that ungodly low tuning. There’s riffs aplenty, but they serve best in total immersion with the rest of the music rather than taking the center stage. That strange fluidity mentioned early on is found where both melody and rhythm have equal footing.
If this review feels contrived or overly poetic, it’s because there is little other way to describe the magic of The Divine Punishment. There are few traditional “hooks,” it plays out more like a channeled epiphany of inspiration and all the listener (and the musicians) can do is strap in for the ride. A term like “progressive” can often bring a bad taste to the mouth of those seeking more esoteric or spiritual resonance in their black metal, but Antediluvian draw from the well of the black flame so fluidly and effortlessly that any pretense will quickly be cast to the wind. Even when the violin on “Guardians Of The Liminal” whines it way across the soundscape, there is a certain reverence to the Black Art that is maintained. Yet, even with such devotion to the bleaker ends of black metal, there is a certain playful visciousness to the record. Song titles like “Tamasic Masturbation Ritual,” “Sadomaniacal Katabasis (Last Fuck Of The Dying),” “Temple Prostitute,” and last, but certainly not least, the bombastic conclusion of “Winged Ascent Unto The Twelve Runed Solar Anus” all simultaneously mock while acknowledging the crude and blasphemous magic of sex. To sum up the takeaway I have from Antediluvian’s latest: Imagine the overly horned-up kid from Biology class who drew disturbingly detailed cocks on the cover of his textbook between Slayer and Beherit logos got really into progressive/jam music, read a lot of esoteric literature, and formed an improv-heavy black metal band in Canada and somehow made it really fucking good and all work together while experimenting with alternative states of consciousness, and you’d be somewhere in the neighborhood of this record. It’s almost humiliating just how intimidating the album is: Antediluvian are channeling the essence of divine chaos, and it’s a mind-bending, sacrilegious, and perverted journey that is somehow reverent and masterfully crafted at the same time. It holds nothing sacred–not even itself–in its attempt to mock the entirety of creation and beyond.
CD copies of The Divine Punishment are shipping now! via the Nuclear War Now! Bandcamp page.