by Todd Manning
Anonymous Canadian trio Thantifaxath made waves with their 2014 debut full-length Sacred White Noise, a powerful slab of angular black metal that wormed its way into many year-end lists. They coupled this achievement with a well-received tour with New York-based blackened death outfit Imperial Triumphant, leaving many anxiously awaiting their next release. The wait is at least somewhat over, given that they have chosen to grace us with their new four-track EP Void Masquerading as Matter.
Sacred White Noise certainly qualified as a forward-thinking release, combining tricky riffs with hints of strange melodies bubbling up from beneath the brutal surface onslaught. Many of the songs transitioned in and out of odd noise sections, seemingly influenced by experimental modern classical artists. Void Masquerading as Matter finds the trio doubling down on their most challenging tendencies, pulling the listener deeper into their bizarre abyss.
As evidenced from the opener, “Ocean of Screaming Spheres,” Thantifaxath’s anonymous guitarist has begun writing longer, more serpentine riffs, the lines stretched into yawning voids. The effect is somewhat reminiscent of a faster and more complete take on the sort of riff Morbid Angel utilized on the classic track “God of Emptiness.” The chord progression is unnerving, reinforced by the buried squall of feedback underneath. If the first riff was challenging, then the second proves even more cyclonic, a spiral and chromatic descending figure, complemented by equally strong drumming.
Midway through the track, the tempo slows and we are confronted with a sparse and discordant movement on piano. The aforementioned touches of avant-garde classical music from the debut are now integrated into the song structure itself and to awe-inspiring effect. This is followed by one of the weirdest metal riffs to bubble up in a long time, a time-warped bit of mid-paced blackened madness, utterly menacing and confounding.
The second and third songs continue on in much the same way as the opener. “Self-Devouring Womb” focuses a bit more on mid-paced tempos and is more memorable for it, yet still retains all the obtuseness of the band’s overall sound. The third track, “Cursed Numbers,” might be the strangest yet. More descending chromatic riffs orbit around the imagined center of the song, like a complex being with only a void for a soul. It is hard to lock on to any single element, yet easy to be swept away in the tidal force of the whole.
It would be easy, if not a bit lazy to bring up Thantifaxath’s French counterparts as some sort of overriding influence here. There’s no doubt that these mysterious metalheads are familiar with Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord, and their work may even feature prominently in their record collections. But truth be told, there seem to be stronger ties to fellow countrymen such as Gorguts, Voivod and the like in Thantifaxath’s brand of experimental metal. There is a sonic heft not found in many black metal bands’ sound, and also a clarity shining through all the angularity. For all the obtuseness, this is memorable stuff.
The fourth and final track of the EP is the title piece, “Void Masquerading as Matter.” Here, the experimental classical influences take center stage. The sound palette is composed of what sounds like the human voice, a choral piece that imparts all of the strangeness and unknowing that preceded. While not as dense, one is instantly reminded of Gyorgy Ligeti’s “Requiem,” which featured prominently in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Thantifaxath once again dive deep into the crowded waters of experimental extreme metal. 2017 has been a banner year for such musical risk-taking, but even among the stiff competition, this group of nameless dark denizens stands out. Their brand of muscular black metal is sure to satisfy fans of both Deathspell Omega and Gorguts, and this EP is hopefully just a teaser of a second full-length lurking right around the corner. It’s hard to imagine how far their journey will take them, but the possibilities seem to be endless.