For a record label, having a settled aesthetic can yield mixed results. The savvy listener can easily learn what to expect, which can guarantee a steady consumer base of devotees of a particular stylistic furrow. On the other hand, such consistency can mean either that worthy albums from worthy bands get lost in the shuffle, or that lesser albums are exempted from a rigorous quality control process because they tick the requisite boxes.

Colorado's Dark Descent Records has occupied the former position for the past few years. The label has become a focal point for a particular brand of potent, grimly serious death metal in much the same way that Nuclear War Now! has made itself a magnet for the swirling, miasmic vortex of bestial/war/black/death/whatever metal. By and large, however, Dark Descent's releases have maintained a rather startling level of quality. But for all its strengths, that consistency sometimes gets in its own way, particularly when paired with the label's curious release schedule.

Specifically, over the past year or two, many of Dark Descent's chiefest triumphs have been released in big clotted clumps of other albums. This was true with Desolate Shrine and Maveth, and then of Vorum, Krypts, and Lantern. And now, the same is poised to be the case with Lvcifyre, Corpsessed, and Lie in Ruins. Lvcifyre's sterling second album Svn Eater, which we're streaming in full today, will be released January 21st, followed by the release of both Corpsessed and Lie in Ruins just two weeks later. It's a bit churlish to complain about such a bounty, but it makes word-scribblers such as yours truly more likely to reach for blanket generalizing about all three, instead of wallowing in the trenches with the fine-grain details of each.

Svn Eater deserves your ear-time, though, and it's not looking to go home 'til you've listened.

At first listen, one might dismiss Svn Eater as little more than turbo-charged Morbid Angel. With return visits and a closer ear, however, it becomes clear that Svn Eater is really damn good turbo-charged Morbid Angel, but also that its tentacles reach a bit deeper. Lvcifyre's margins are ash-charred with a black metal residue, and underneath the surface-level pummeling, there's almost always an additional nuance or texture that might escape casual ears. More importantly, though, Lvcifyre's playbook tips its cap more often to Covenant than Altars of Madness, which means that several of these tunes are gosh-darn near danceable.

"Night Seas Sorcery" might not be the best opening gambit for these attention-scarce times, because it takes five minutes of its nine-minute duration to build up to a bone-pounding full band tumult, but that patience is an important bit of scene-setting, like the roiling of a turbulent black sea. Once the second song "Calicem Obscurum" hits, the album plants itself inches from your face and delights in your sweat-damp skin and ragged breathing. Lvcifyre wields a cunning compositional weapon by often churning at a full-forward tilt while the rhythm section simultaneously spits out chopped-up machine-gun blasts that seem to be taunting the swarming guitars to follow their daring lead. Frontman T. Kaos's vocals are towering and imposing, and drummer Menthor lays down a thick blanket of double-bass above which the guitars tangle and snarl.

Svn Eater is tar-thick and twisting, but never indulgent of complexity for its own sake. You might be tempted to slot Lvcifyre into a grander narrative, but if you can, give them space, let them breathe their own air. Synthesis can wait when there's unmediated destruction to be had.

— Dan Lawrence


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