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The most extreme metal aims to hurt. Riffs can slice, vocals can pierce, drums can pummel. Essenz, though, aim to suffocate. The band, whose identities remain notoriously mysterious, has a history of oppressive musical occult violence. But on “Peeled & Released,” the band’s first track in six years, the atmosphere is thick with cruelty. Stream it exclusively below.

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The 11-minute dirge moves fluidly between death, doom, and occasionally black metal, à la sadistic contemporaries Portal. Essenz, though, play with a great deal more clarity and precision, making for a sharply honed experience that never skimps on the brutality. The percussive, reverberant throb that opens the track quickly gives way to a massive tremolo riff that underscores harrowing vocals.

While the vibe is certainly sadistic, the riffs remain remarkably clear, well-complimented by expert drum fills that give the entire runtime plenty of space for headbanging. In this way, Essenz are quite accessible, making this a track likely to appeal to metal fans of all stripes.

Things start splitting apart around the five-minute mark when noisy bursts of squelching feedback cut through the fore before the tempo abruptly doubles, denoting a transition into black metal transcendence. But as quickly as that occurs, we’re taken on an immensely heavy punk-beat-laden doom odyssey. It’s a sharp left turn at once jarring and completely on-brand.

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The jarring transition from death metal growls to black metal shrieks is one of the track’s most electrifying moments. The vocals sit incredibly low in the mix, making them almost difficult to pick out among the ruinous instrumentation. Once they’re spotted, they’re impossible to ignore. Moments like these prove the band’s remarkable versatility.

“Peeled & Released” is one hell of an album opener, and where things will go from here is anyone’s guess. Essenz play with genre conventions in the best way possible: consistently surprising, always satisfying. Genre fusion is a messy business, but Essenz continually prove they have the chops to pull it off.

Michael Siebert

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Manes Impetus releases August 10th via Amor Fati Productions.

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