Release: 15 October 2013
Label: Profound Lore
Avantgenre: White Light Topping Over Black Metal Floor
Origin: New York, US
Official site: http://www.castevet.com/
Review online since: 14.11.2013 / 23:55:48
Remember their first album, Mounds of Ash? It started with a march-ish intro that shortly led into a whirlwind of cymbals and harsh but refreshing chords that eventually turned into an ice-cold riff. That riff. It started it all. I got hooked to the album with such a spectacular headstart. And of course that evolved into more surprising riffs and with them came the melodies that, in my mind, mixed the primordial winds, the shaking of the earth, the glaciation and the melting core of a revolutionizing planet.
That headstart is somewhat missing in Obsian but then I didn't need any introduction to the art of Castevet this time around. And this time chaos comes directly from above, like a void-cold salt stone travelling from where the stars dwell and falling rapidly into the Earth, shaking and shattering it with fierce and melting power. As soon as it touches the ground (three seconds and a half into the album), I hear the first riff, and the kind of melodies and ill-formed structures that strike me with it and onwards is the same as what made me get hooked to Castevet before, but simpler, harsher and more to the point. For now; as the style has changed a bit in reality, and the scope is broader, thus leading to new kinds of landscapes. It's still contemporaneous black metal, made in the US and modern sounding, with a certain nod to old school in sound and attitude; but it's been debugged and it's now better developed into final form, and more importantly, it's quite more ambituous as well.
All in all, the melodies and song structures resemble that of the first album. And that means, mostly, melodies played with a concrete technique that makes me think of strong winds, the foam emanating from large caudals of violent waters, the heaviest of rains over crackling sands, or huge geological happenings in general. A sound of cold places that I can recognize in the guitars of other bands such as Primordial or Sólstafir, even if these three bands have little in common in the end. There's also hints of the most alien Enslaved (Isa) here and there, as there were in the previous album, in some tones and techniques, now also aligning sometimes with the more proggy, later Enslaved (thinking of the good parts of Vertebrae).
So, we have those melodies as actors in a performance where the song structures, rythm changes and fills play the role of an ever changing plot, sometimes rapidly developing and hard to follow, but sometimes slow, severe and monotone.
Also, there's something to this album. It's structured as a 25 minute block of songs which make the first part, then there's an interlude that is named as the album, and then there's one final song that is just different. It's not bad at all, it's just something the band did not do in their debut. The kind of interlude wasn't done before either.
So, the first part has this particularity: each song is more or less the style of the first album but with more playful structures and arrangements, and the ending to each of these four songs is something very unique. In all four cases. Each of them leads to a conclussion featuring one riff or progression of riffs where the style of Castevet's mainman and guitarist Andrew Hock demakes-and-reinvents itself into a more abstract grand finale with varied results.
In the first instance of this conclussions, The Tower, the result is a mind-boggling riff that coils on itself again and again and does a very dark work of a song-ending and linking with the following one.
The second song, Cavernous, is a bit calmer and atmospheric, less aggressive, with some of the more soothing parts of the album (and the most soothing of this first part), so the ending this time involves the song elevating itself to a higher state of consciousness in a process highly aided by the bass playing of Nicholas McMaster, who also plays in Krallice and has joined as new bassist on this album - with a very prominent presence sometimes I must say, which adds varied layers of color and accents to the music. He adds some dissonant notes when the song seems to wrap itself up, hinting to the unique sounding riff that comes afterwards, that could only be described as a haunted carousel of the wild hunt's riders spiraling into the void. Really.
After that one can only expect some chaotic dark mood, and I must say that where I saw white light and forming continents in the first album, I see blackness in this one. Totally self-destructive and black landscapes with glimpses of light, like the ones on The Curve's main riff. The one that is soon broken and ripped by Ian Jacyszyn's elegant drum fill and following torn rythm, only momentarily. This time the ending lead is taken by the excellent bass line, as the guitar deconstruction has already taken place in the aforementioned break. And this one is as atmospheric as the album gets, but that's an unsettling kind of atmosphere there.
Fourth song, fourth dissonant raging abstract landscape with some impressive bass sound, with notes hanging in the coagulated air. It's not coincidence I think, I can hear some of Hock's influences and I mean Carl-Michael-Eide aka Czral; the riff seems cut with a similar pattern as those on Shame Eclipse and the abstract, dark tone is reminiscent of The Black Flux era Virus. Or maybe it's just my obsession, but I can feel the influence not only in all instruments specially at the beginning of (and also throughout) As Fathomed By Beggars And Victims, but also at the end riff of The Tower. Of course it's just an ingredient of this peculiar brewing and the desolate aria wages its war onwards into a new ghostly ride that is arpeggiated over a dense layer of thick venomous vibrant fog.
First part of the album finished, and it already deserves the time, analysis and effort that takes to delve deeper and deeper on the album, but it's still not finished, far from it. The song Obsian serves as a transitional interlude. The atmosphere is not interrupted but enhanced with this clean chant of distressed strings and seamlessly the final song The Seat of Severance enters, with its surprising clean vocals over a palm muted slow riff that reminded me of Anomaly era S.U.P.. This song is ever calm but pounding; and adapts perfectly the band's style to a different kind of song. The trademark sound of Castevet is intact here in what is just another surprising grand finale, not to one song but to the album. This is the one grand finale that Castevet were keeping in their sleeves all this time, with sublime arrangements and an extreme refinement of the whole album's sound into a mournful and desperate cry. Given the duration of the album and that of the interlude, the two last songs may sound like a disappointment, accounting for more than ten minutes, but it's just the initial shock. The first part of the album, those four songs are full of arrangements and breaks that are worth the debut's length in quality, while the other "half" of the album makes the icing on the cake.
As I said, the first album meant more light and creation to me while this one is darker and more destructive, while retaining the essence. This one is also better meaning that the amount and type of arrangements is on another level, but that doesn't mean we should scrap Mounds of Ash; on the contrary, this new album is as good an excuse as any to relisten to the debut and let both of the albums complement each other. And then, just wonder what could come next and await the best.
01 - The Tower
02 - Cavernous
03 - The Curve
04 - As Fathomed By Beggars And Victims
05 - Obsian
06 - The Seat Of Severance