The concept of black metal as ritual is hardly a new one. It may simply be just another style of music for many fans and bands, but for a minority, black metal is something more – something deeply philosophical, that should be inherently confrontational and challenging to “normal” ways of life. It’s in this way that Rites of Thy Degringolade have approached black metal ever since their original inception as a one-man band in 1997, and this questioning mindset has been present in their music ever since. Their fourth album The Blade Philosophical carries on this approach, and as its title implies, the philosophy fuelling the album is cutting; an incisive assault that looks to transcend its converts in to something higher than our earthly bodies.
The Blade Philosophical kicks off in the most accessible opening form on a Rites of Thy Degringolade record to date. “Above the Highest” opens with a spiralling, unorthodox guitar line accompanied by hypnotic chanting that sets the serious, mystical tone of the album perfectly. It’s hardly accessible in the normal sense of the word, but compared with how second album Totality or third album An Ode To Sin began, it’s a much more welcoming introduction than expected. When the song gets going proper – with its blistering drums, unsettling melodies, and commanding vocals – there’s something almost reminiscent of orthodox black metal bands (such as Watain, Funeral Mist, and Ofermod) about it; but whilst Rites of Thy Degringolade craft much more complicated music than those comparisons imply, and have been doing so since before orthodox black metal was recognised as a coherent scene around the mid-00’s, the comparison is warranted in terms of mindset, and of devotion to the spiritual and cosmic aspects of black metal. This is not black metal for knocking back beers at the end of a day; this is music for serious inward reflection, of rising above mundane matters to some grander form.
For those previously unfamiliar with Rites of Thy Degringolade, this sense of The Blade Philosophical being more than mere music becomes more apparent as the album goes on. The repeated chants during the opening track – “I am now above the highest! / You are now above the highest!” – are less lyrics and more statements of fact, revelling in their cosmic superiority. The confidence needed to pull off such statements is present throughout, and the repeated lyrical motifs – violence as enlightenment; the knife as a path to perfection; the rejection of the earthly and shift towards the cosmic truth – enhance the intellectual, transcendent nature of the album.
What might come as a slight surprise for those familiar with the band is the sense of control the they show over the music throughout the album. Whereas Totality was an album that felt chaotic – as if the band might lose control over what they were creating in an instant – The Blade Philosophical follows the trend of An Ode to Sin, with the music feeling as if it is utterly under the command of the musicians involved. This is not to say that it lacks in danger or chaos, or that the music is in any way tame; rather, it is a testament to the strength of Rites of Thy Degrindolade that they are able to craft such technical, other-worldly black metal and still be in absolute control of what they unleash.
The orthodox black metal scene may sometimes feel as if its best days are behind it now, and the likes of Deathspell Omega are now accepted as standard within black metal; yet
The Blade Philosophical Track Listing:
01. Above the Highest
02. The Blade Philosophical
03. The Universe in Three Parts
04. Totalities Kompletion
05. I Am the Way, the Truth and the Knife
06. The Final Laceration
Run Time: 41:07
Release Date: March 15, 2018
Get a taste of the album by stream the closing track “The Final Laceration” here.