Premiere: Thantifaxath – “Where I End & the Hemlock Begins”

When you want to talk about a band that hasn’t been publicly discussed very much, biographical details can constitute an easy jumping-off point. Thantifaxath don’t offer much in this regard. Aside from the fact that they’re Torontonian and consist of three anonymous members, not much is known about them. Their visual schtick offers some hints. The Dementor robes suggest “black metal”; the grainy but striking cover art implies both “raw” and “artsy”.

Some of those possible inferences are accurate, but others turn out to be red herrings. While Thantifaxath’s debut LP Sacred White Noise is both artsy and rooted in black metal, it’s pristinely performed, beautifully recorded, and far more expansive than any typical black metal album. It’s alsoa fucking brutal. Progressive rock and outré noise run flanking maneuvers around the edges of a truly vicious frontal assault that borders on death metal in gravity. Thantifaxath are not the first band to tinker with these bits of machinery, but outside of Dodecahedron’s incredible 2012 debut, I’ve rarely heard them deployed together to such intense and engaging effect. You can headbang if you want, but convulsions and self-mutilation may be more apt.

Though Thantifaxath tread well outside of conventional metal boundaries, they do so in pursuit of the emotion that I seek most in my death and black metal: fear. This is frightening music, both thematically and harmonically. Sacred White Noise offers plenty of curios for the kind of listener who wants to dissect time signatures and harmonic suspensions, but like all really good technical metal albums, this one privileges the collective effect over the details. The title of another song on the record captures the vibe succinctly: “Panic Becomes Despair.” On “Where I End & the Hemlock Begins,” the band use a relatively simple device to evoke this emotion: a nauseating chromatic chord progression descends slowly but inexorably, beginning at about a minute into the song. (A similar device appears in leadoff single “The Bright White Nothing at the End of the Tunnel,” which you can listen to here.) The sequence eventually terminates with a surprisingly lyrical guitar melody, which makes sense. Fear comes in waves, after all.

Sacred White Noise will be out on April 15 via Dark Descent Records. They’re also in the process of announcing a brief (and mostly Canadian) tour with the like-minded Castevet in advance of the latter’s upcoming MDF appearance. Catch them if you can.

— Doug Moore