I first met Baltimore-area musician Eric Rhodes years ago at an ill-fated show right here in my home town. Today Is The Day was supposed to play this absurdly small dive bar right down the street from me, there was no way I was going to pass that up. Alas, the band was stuck in traffic due to an accident on the highway, and they didn't make it. But the evening was salvaged by meeting Eric, who shared many of the same interests as I - we talked European prog, avant-garde death metal, and noise rock all evening. And he told me about his then-new band Genevieve; I assumed it was a reference to the Velvet Cacoon album, which it partially was. But as he described the band's sound, it was obviously something quite different. I followed Geneveieve's work over the subsequent past decade, watching this interesting, amorphous outfit move from early roots in Kayo Dot-esque chamber doom into something more idiosyncratic. That radical evolution tracked Genevieve moving from the gorgeous, Codeine-meets-Time Of Orchids-meets-blackened doom of 2013's Hope /Desolation demo (which is absolutely beautiful, harrowing stuff, check it out), and the early experimental digital releases that blended an increasing control of atonality and crushing black metal-influenced guitar sound with polluted sprawls of ambient guitar-noise ectoplasm, creepy-as-fuck improv industrial exercises, Abruptum-like horrorscapes, and the ever-present aura of prog and math rock, which would always manifest in the band's songwriting.
This mixture of sounds and textures really stood out on the two albums that Genevieve put out on local label Grimoire Records: 2015's Escapism and 2017's Regressionism. Here, it finally all came together into this monstrous and insanely heavy black / death chaos, barbed with bizarre dissonant leads, brutalizing tempo changes, churning concrete-mixer power that ripped everything around them to shreds. Nightmarish guttural vocals ascend into psychotic shrieks, each song unfurling into a pulverizing pandemonium of jagged edges and wrecked neurosis. But that math rock / chamber rock element is still fully present, appearing in the cracks that open amid the blackened blast, haunting interludes (sometimes using cello and acoustic guitar) and these beautiful, emotionally-wracked performances that magnify the intensity of the band's violent sound. Both of those albums are excellent and highly, highly recommended for those into the far-flung fringes of chaotic, experimental black / death.
And here we are with 2023's Akratic Parasitism. The band's third album, sharpened and concentrated, further perfecting Genevieve's unusual sound. As sweeping, majestic melodies rise through opener "Growth", the quartet expertly detonates maelstroms of ultra-violent, ravenous blackened death that swallow everything in sight, but which shatter into those amazing passages of clean, spidery guitar structures, ghostly vocals that waft through the shadows, and abrupt, off-kilter tempos that, to me at least, evokes the likes of Slint, Rodan, June Of 44 and other seminal 90s-era Louisville math rock outfits (as well as a heavy dose of early This Heat) . It seems like such an unlikely genetic code, but man, does it work. Akratic's eigh songs are slithering, undulating abominations, writhing with snarling shape-shifting vocals and grotesque roars, screaming at the heavens, the thick, suffocating chaos exuding something similar to the weird non-Euclidean death metal of bands like Ulcerate, Portal, Ehnahre, Altars, Dead Congregation, and Pyrrhon, that sort of post-Obscura Gorguts influenced death, but shot through with those abrupt shifts into shimmering angularity, chorus-drenched strings, spindly minor-key melody, choral voices, and impassioned, emotive singing that blossoms into something strange and achingly beautiful, before everything around it is brutally sucked back into their churning hell vortex. I haven't heard anything like it. The schizoid, form-splintering violence sewn through Genevieve's music continues to remind me of early Today Is The Day as well, funnily enough. One of the most interesting and ambitious extreme metal bands from the Baltimore area, Genevieve has found their way into a bizarre pocket universe of their own making.