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Mirrors of Pain: Sempiternal Dusk’s “Refracted Suffering Through the Windows of Hell”

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Despite its vast wealth of diversity, death metal as a whole often follows certain stylistic trends and fads, such as the tech-death spring of the mid 2010s or the current wave of OSDM-revivalism. But one sect of death metal that has never truly seen itself dwell in the limelight is the mythic realm of death-doom. This unique blend of raw aggression and melancholic catharsis maintains its status as a more meditative and darkly spiritual exploration of extremity defined by aesthetically nuanced groups. One such outfit bearing this arcane torch into the present day is Portland-based Sempiternal Dusk. The mystical four-piece crafts deeply terrifying death-doom magic with a wholly singular approach.

Formed in 2011, the members of Sempiternal Dusk converged at a time when death metal’s rotten tendrils had yet to foment a serious, widespread commitment to the genre in the Pacific Northwest. Though their first album was a spectacular descent into entrenched death metal (so deeply instilled with esoteric darkness that the group was signed by the then-lesser known label Dark Descent), it remained securely fastened in the underground world, never gaining the group due recognition. After a series of split releases in 2017 and 2018, however, the group began work on their upcoming sophomore album Cenotaph of Defectuous Creation, created with the intention of pulling their sound out from the sonic depths. Leading up to the album’s release next Friday, we are revealing another of Sempiternal Dusk’s bizarre take on the marriage of doom and death metal — an equally radical alternative to the speedy OSDM grime of their Portland compatriots — in the form of “Refracted Suffering Through the Windows of Hell.”

The track begins at an excruciating crawl, a lethargic crash cymbal acting as a metronome for an oozing funereal instrumental passage. Almost immediately, however, Sempiternal Dusk pivot unpredictably into a gallop, a churning pit of double bass and cavernous riffs. Though the clarity of sound here is indeed more pointed and discernible than their first outing, “Refracted” still retains their signature sense of swelling anxiety. As this pit of sonic blasphemy pulsates and gradually changes in form, the blackened elements within the group’s sound become apparent as the unforgiving tonalities of their riffs meet the cavernous destruction of drummer/vocalist TC. In a grotesque trance, layer upon layer of atmospheric fog spills over until finally the cacophony breaks away into a twisted, harrowing outro of static decay.

At its contextually dialed-back length of six minutes, “Refracted” serves as a perfect hybrid of the two differing timbres presented across this record: deathly funeral doom of the longer tracks and the ravenous speed of its shorter pieces. With a sense of the occult, Cenotaph of Defectuous Creation is a statement of permanence and steadfast stoicism. Its esoteric sound seeks only to reflect the deepest inner contemplation and suffering. It carries an essential element of doom in its core, but wears the hideously gaudy garments of death metal’s rage and pummeling violence.

Cenotaph of Defectuous Creation releases September 27th via Dark Descent Records.

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