In a time where so many black metal artists are polishing and refining their creative output, generating a sanitised and accessible facsimile of the fervour of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, it’s refreshing (not to mention a little unsettling!) to encounter an artist like Portugal’s Black Cilice; and Iron Bonehead Productions are to be commended for adding this band to their roster.
Transfixion of Spirits, Black Cilice’s fifth full-length, may not be the longest album – four tracks totalling a hair over 36 minutes – but it packs a visceral, seething punch throughout. It’s raw, putrid and a delightful example of the kind of vehemence and malice black metal should embody. That said, it is a very different kind of sonic violence to, for example, Mayhem’sDe Mysteriis Dom Sathanas or Sarcofago’s INRI: the rawness under review here is less punk/thrash dirt, more a studied case of layer upon layer of torturous soundscaping. The dense interweaving textural compositions Black Cilice produces have been historically described as ‘claustrophobic,’ and this label is as apt on Transfixion of Spirits as it was for 2017’s Banished From Time or 2015’s Summoning The Night. I would even go so far as to call the tightly woven music anti-ambient – but at the same time, however, the longer-form pieces do allow for more attention to atmosphere.
And what an atmosphere it is that this prolific (24 separate releases, from EPs to splits and albums over a decade) solo project generates: haunting, disturbing and mournful. Songs like “Darkness and Fog” are perfectly named, accurately capturing the shadowy mood, while “Revelations” imparts a remarkably uplifting cathartic ending to the album.
This stream of “Outerbody Incarnation” exemplifies the layered, textural approach to composition Black Cilice employs:
The only negative critique I can offer is that it’s all too much: Transfixion of Spirits is so tightly packed, it requires serious consideration to decode and assimilate. As a consequence of this, the massive, superheavy ensemble fades into one droning wall of background noise: a welcome distraction to some activities, perhaps, but not an active exercise in music appreciation. A shame, really, as it is painfully obvious that Black Cilice’s Transfixion of Spirits is a deeply profound realization of personal traumas and emotions, one that deserves more attention.
Transfixion of Spirits Track Listing:
01. Darkness and Fog
02. Maze of Spirits
03. Outerbody Incarnation
Run Time: 36:30
Release Date: September 6, 2019
Record Label: Iron Bonehead