SKULLFLOWER  Desire For A Holy War  CD   (Utech)   14.98

Utech announced their ambitious URSK series recently, and I've really been looking forward to the first installment. Curated by Utech, the series is

going to be comprised of limited edition CD releases from a variety of artists, and each one will be tied in with a specific peice of artwork from Stephen

Kasner, the Ohio based artist that I mentioned here a month or two ago when we listed the Works: 1993-2006 book from Scapegoat Publishing. Kasner

has long been one of my favorite artists in the underground, and his dark, quasi-mystical visuals become an integral part of the experience for any album

that he is a part of, so the thought of seeing him teaming up with a lineup of artists like Skullflower, Aluk Todolo, Final, and Runhild Gammelsaeter was an

exciting one.

So here we have the first installment in the series, limited to only 750 copies, from no less than Skullflower. And from the first seconds of Desire

For A Holy War, there is no mistaking this for one of Matt Bower's space-rock obsessed excursions. No way. As soon as "Your Cities, Your Tombs" (a

reference to Lamberto Bava's Demoni, methinks?) erupts in your face with a blast of excoriating amplifier noise and feedback, it should be pretty

clear that this is going to be a scathing assault in the vein of Skullflower's Tribulation and the Mirag discs. But underneath the intense,

blackened high-end skree, grating feedback and white-noise distortion, I'm also hearing the most METAL riffs I've ever heard from Skullflower. On "Moses

Conjured A Blood Niagra", thick layers of Merzbowian crunch and roar obscure mangled metallic riffs that are buried way down in the chaos, still discernable

but only occasionally managing to break through the storm of feedback and amp roar. And while this is a grinding, white-hot furnace of sonic wreckage, there

are also some amazing melodies buried under the murk and noise as well that vaguely hint at Skullflower's riffier past but never allow the corrosive

guitarnoisescape to let up.

An amazing variety of texture manifests across these tracks, though. "Eve's Dream" is a dark, churning storm of amplifier hiss cranked up to skull

splattering levels of volume, and at the core of this whirling wall of white noise are faintly heard acoustic guitars being strummed, some kind of clattery

percussion, deep moaning vocal chants, and weird, overmodulated melodic scrawl. A distant, blasting black metal pulse powers "Frozen Spectres", with muffled

double bass drumming and blastbeats obfuscated by a thick blanket of hiss, dirgey acoustic guitars, and overloaded guitars warble a gorgeous somber melody.

This track by itself is one of the most gorgeously grim pieces of music I've heard from Skullflower. Then comes "Serbonian Bog", a howling noisescape of

feedback and helicoptering distortion poured over more of those austere acoustic guitar chords, a grinding rhythmic churn that sounds like a lawnmower engine

being used as some kind of percussive instrument, eventually pierced by an epic sounding melody forged out of scorched high end guitar skree. The last track

is one of the heaviest, "Divinvis Devs", and it kicks up a blackened sky filled with zonked space-psych soloing right out of Skullflower's Exquisite

Fucking Boredom accompanied by roaring winds of amp hiss and screeching distorted feedback, charred raspy vocals, and crunchy riffing over a stuttering,

lopsided pulsating beat, like a heavily drugged Wolf Eyes on a wicked Hawkwind/Black Metal kick.

Essential for Skullflower fans, if you haven't already figured that out. The disc comes in a simple six-panel foldout sleeve with Kasner's artwork.