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As a child in Pennsylvanian Appalachia, I was once taken deep into one of nearby Scranton’s retired coal mines. It was there where I experienced pure, conscious darkness. We don’t get to experience near-complete sensory deprivation all too often in modern times, light polluting the sky and the din of billions filling our ears, even from miles away. Pure eigengrau, or the "intrinsic gray," is the result of our brains trying to process a lack of photons bombarding our corneas - it is literally our minds comprehending visual nothingness, and my 6-year-old psyche found it terrifying. What they don’t tell you about absolute darkness is the brain’s instinctive ability to overcompensate; even with only six years of sight, my brain knew my eyes could process light, but light dares not touch the bowels of the Earth… so I hallucinated. Upon the flick of the tour guide’s finger against a newly installed light switch, I was bombarded with shadows. Disorienting, unnaturally large shapes - bigger than the chamber my tour group was in - but my fear spoke to me. A deep, innate, animalistic fear which clung to me for a long time.

I understand that black metal is largely an exploration into the sonic representation of fear and evil, and granted lots of bands might succeed in the latter, but few truly speak to my fear like Australia’s Ill Omen. The sluggish, chasmal roar echoes from the Earth through a ripped, gaping maw. "IV", one of musician Mitchell Keepin’s many noms du plume, has always been spare and reserved in sound, often using space and echo to fill in the gaps of his vast approach to black metal’s majesty, and his latest effort Æ.Thy.Rift is the weary, doomed death rattle companion to its predecessor, Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence. Though skeletal in execution, IV’s many layered, melodic, cavernous approach echoes and casts a shadow larger than itself, slowly lumbering from the deep, dark unknown. It is hallucinatory, transcendental, and revels in its magnificent wickedness. I am a fearful person, neurotic and panicked. However beautiful, the gaping emptiness of Ill Omen’s quadripartite Æ.Thy.Rift reaches deep into my locked memory vault and mirrors the fearful shadows of a past fear. May it grip yours, as well.

Æ.Thy.Rift’s totality will assault your senses courtesy of Nuclear War Now! Productions on CD and LP formats at the end of the month - March 31st. Have an exclusive listen to the third untitled track (given the placeholder title "III. Æ.Thy.Rift") below. Be sure to support your favorite artists and labels.

Oh, and regarding the mines in Scranton: 58 unfortunate souls felt my fear in their agonizing final moments in the Knox Mine disaster. Horrific.

—Jon Rosenthal

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Follow Ill Omen on Bandcamp.

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