I feel blessed to have a reliable record label which I can walk into an album blind and know that it will be of high quality or, at the very least, interesting. Much like a majority of the Fallen Empire roster, Skáphe is a complete mystery aside from a 35 minute tape release. With little information besides a general region and a full length stretched out across four songs, listening to these types of releases is akin to navigating a dark room which maybe endless in its own dimensions. We have reached the very end of existence and beyond us is a starless abyss.
One of the few adjectives which was used to promote this record was “asphyxiating.” I am no stranger to colorful words but I feel this adjective wasn’t used with levity. What can be said about Skáphe is the project’s intense interest in discordant black metal which doesn’t rely on fast chaotic noise. Skáphe, instead, intends to instill abject horror during the downtime. While this record does launch into full black metal tempo, the majority of their self titled debut hangs in stillness and lurches across those dark passages previously mentioned. The album’s longest track, “The Obelisk Gleam” is a rousing and existentially exhausting odyssey with howls, flat chords, and what look like horrible glossy monsters. The album’s 5 minute ambient drone piece which closes the album is perhaps as unsettling, if not more, than the music which precedes it. If Skáphe was trying to create a haunted genesis as the start for black metal, I feel they/he/she/it has found it in a place I never want to return.
Writing metal reviews is a strange thing as words which were originally intended to defame are used as praise. Skáphe in accomplishes not only a depressive release but one that emits horrors from the realm of the unknowable. It is a release which transcends other black metal records in terms of awareness, presentation, and willingness to sacrifice oneself to a consuming light. I feel these records are important since they have the ability to remind audiences how far heavy metal can travel without one mention of blood and ghouls and still be terrifying. Thanks guys, now I have to go to sleep.