Monday, October 3, 2022

Akatharta - Spiritus Immundus (2017)

The formidable Kam Lee is one of death metal's most prolific vocalists, and while not all of the projects he involves himself in are top shelf, his own contributions are chock-full of some of the broadest, beefiest and most sustained guttural growls you're ever going to hear, and they almost instantly catapult their surroundings into something more fearsome than they probably even deserve. Akatharta, on the other hand, proves more than worthy to handle that frightening load, because his staggering and horrific delivery throughout Spiritus Immundus is equaled by its crush of mesmerizing, eerie death/doom, creepy acoustics and the novel use of actual Electronic Voice Phenomena samples to grant it an entirely new level of supernatural atmosphere, and all of this combines into a truly harrowing experience which is, for me at least, the finest hour of one Kam Lee and a project that I hope continues even to the detriment of his many others!

Though Spiritus Immundus falls squarely into the funeral doom category, it's a lot busier than one might expect from that niche, perhaps like a Shape of Despair with a slightly wider dynamic range. The huge, chugging, monolithic rhythm guitars are glazed with diabolic harmonies and Kam's growls seem to wax and wane across the beefy cuts, peaks and valleys of guttural abuse that resemble a congregation of angry spirits trying to out-monstrify one another. There's a little repetition to some of the patterns, but it's never painfully so which I've experienced from other, drier acts in this style. The yawning intros and segues are often the most 'funeral' parts of this, and the effect is achieved more with the vocals and sample effects than just the droning guitars. Drums are cautious and steady as with other groups in this style, and the bass is exceedingly simple, roiling with just enough buzz to help the rhythm guitars crush-fuck your soul. I particularly love the little ululating guitar melodies which feed into and out of the other instruments like streams of bleeding agony, and some of the pure, basic chug riffs here like in "Possessione Diabolica" hit you like a concentrated dose of Hooded Menace.

Though they do their best to mesh in the cover of Celtic Frost's "Dethroned Emperor" with the originals, I will say I found that unnecessary and kind of breaks up the novelty of the album preceding it. His voice sounds great growling that one out, and they get into some noisy clamor, but it just doesn't strike with the same impact as the longer tunes. Lyrics are fairly simple, but cover a wide range of supernatural horror from the Eastern to the Western, and nothing too complex is needed there, since the growling itself becomes an instrument that transcends its own prose. The production on this thing is vast, you'll want to turn it up and attempt to make out the detail of the samples and reverbed vocals which are the looser elements of the compositions, anchored by the guitars and drums. This album is ridiculous and I'm ashamed I didn't pay more attention to it sooner, but any fan of the style who wants it as long on atmosphere as heaviness should mandate it to their collection pronto. Cyclopean, soul-crushing death doom.

Verdict: Win [8.75/10]

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