The swirling, sweat-soaked psychedelic black metal of Grave Gnosis first infected me when I discovered the band's 2021 album Lux Nigredo and 2022 EP Towards the Nameless Darkness a while back. Both of 'em are terrific and terrifying blasts of incredibly chaotic and mind-bending black metal that likewise caught the attention of many that follow the USBM underground, despite only being available as digital downloads and super-limited cassettes. Slick with swamp slime, the band's music is a smoldering torch in the darkness, mutating the raw matter of black metal into nightmarish and exuberant ritual. There's a distinctly marshy Southern stench that permeates their blend of raging black / death metal, psych, and neo-classical, wafting off the triumphant galloping riffs, harsh and blazing blackened blast, and miasmic trippiness that completely enshrouds their music. But on their latest, Pestilence Crowned , all hell fully and truly breaks loose as the band ascends to a new level of Satanic savagery and twisted, psychotronic violence. This shit is wild . Possessed with a powerful shamanic presence, the nine songs on Pestilence are thoroughly tangled with specific formulae of ceremonial magic and violent adoration, a direct continuation of the themes running through Nigredo related to the band's system of Vedantic Nihilism. Each song becomes a paved stone on the honeysuckle and kudzu-covered footpath to a particular transcendental state; no mere soundtrack to patchwork blasphemies, this album directly interacts with the nervous system and the third eye.
From the ghoulish ambience of opener "Amidst the Rotten Coils of a Great Centipede" with its ghostly cello, tribal percussion and eerie experimental electronics, and the subsequent blast of feverish churning chaos that is "Carnivorous Darkness", this stuff undulates in some seriously crazed ways. Moving through passages of solemn funereal chamber strings and traces of rustic folk music tradition in the gorgeous acoustic strum that appears on tracks like "Ragziel", this album strikes a balance between inchoate madness and progressive intricacy that doesn't really sound like anything else going on in the US black metal field. It all explodes in kaleidoscopic forms, heavily layered with rabid howls echoing into oblivion, strange almost sitar -like ragas spinning in blackness, Moog-like spaced-out synthesizers snaking around the darkly majestic melodies and fractured riffs; you've got moments here that echo the weirder symphonic bombast found in later Emperor and Aspera Hiems Symfonia-era Arcturus , others that hint at classic death metal influences, but Grave Gnosis is so much more chaotic and convoluted, beautiful and monstrous. They've delivered one of the best American occult black metal albums I've heard so far this decade. Drown in the fires of its spiritual intensity.
This cassette edition of Pestilence Crowned is complete with the band's supplemental material: while the tape comes in a traditional case, it is presented in a re-sealable sleeve that also contains an 11" by 17" foldout poster of the scorching, lysergic cover art, and the band's twenty-three page Pestilence Crowned booklet. The latter is an essential piece of the experience, not just a collection of expansive liner notes pertinent to the album, but a new grimoire written by Grave Gnosis frontman Caine Del Sol ( aka √ė ), with explanations both "mundane" and "esoteric" for each song. The liner notes go into intimate detail about the creation and recording of the album, but pairs that with dense occult text, ritual practice, and extensive sigil art that is all as feral, impenetrable, and liberating as the music of Pestilence Crowned itself.
The cassette / booklet / poster edition from Crucial Blast is limited to one hundred copies, hand-numbered.