While New York-based black metal quintet Teloch Vovin certainly isn't the first band to take black magic themes literally, they do bring an intense sincerity to the ritual aspect of their music seldom seen in the world of occult-oriented metal. Their debut album I is described by the band as “a collection of off-kilter hymns summoned in an organic and spontaneous environment” – by which they mean their recordings and performances are genuine rituals of “Khaos Magick,” used in channeling both the destructive and creative powers of cosmic chaos.
So how exactly does that translate musically, you ask? In this case, it brings an arcane, found-footage tone to the content, which is further put into action through a blend of doom, thrash and death metal, charged with the blackened rage of Gorgoroth and Marduk, incorporating the proto-doom riffage of Black Sabbath and set in the darkly dreamlike netherworld of Celtic Frost. The indie production is stripped bare and raw (often uncomfortably so), in a horns-up to the defiantly lo-fi recordings of the early '90s Norwegian black metal movement, but this approach is likely intended to remove any flashy distractions from the lyrical content of their creepy six-part liturgy. If you're put off by deliberately primitive recording techniques, this record will be a pretty tough ordeal. If not, be sure to strap yourself in for an aggressively evil audio experience.
The ceremony begins with the cryptically named “12/21/2012 – 1+2+2+1+2+0+1+2=11” (“Including a Hymn to Apophis”), which suggests a numerological significance to the recording date. It's also a potent dose of the team's atmospheric skills, taking shape in thunderstorms, waves of feedback, whispers and distorted chants. But it's with the band's theme “Teloch Vovin” (which, according to guitarist “G/,” translates as “Death Dragon”) that pure chaos is finally unleashed, via a messy explosion of grimy mid-range riffs, frantic blastbeats and blood-curdling screams. It's also a good test of your psychic stamina when it comes to the boundaries of extreme metal, as this recording is definitely not for the faint of heart. A two-part theme subtitled “Tunnels” plays out across the tracks “Treatise on the Left Emanation” and “The Rite ov the Harvest,” and although the deliberately dirty production steals some of its (literal) thunder, both tracks incorporate haunting dark ambient passages and truly terrifying vocals by dual frontmen Pestis and Gemini.
Eerie atmospheric elements come into play most effectively on the multi-part instrumental “An Entrance unto the Tunnuls ov Set” (the whole recurring “tunnels” theme suggest a touch of Freudian symbolism, but I won't go there), which begins with pitched-down chants (some in reverse), deep electronic drones, bells and found-object percussion before giving way to a live-sounding melodic section that's sure to be a crowd-pleaser in a live setting. This segues into the closing cut “Adoration/Vexation,” which maintains the same melodic undercurrent but shakes things up with snarling, multi-tracked vocals, finally morphing into a rumbling, ravenous beat of simple up-tempo riffs.
Crazed, unsettling, often frustrating but mostly rewarding for fans of extreme metal, Teloch Vovin's debut is a defiantly old-school entry among the current crop of mystery-shrouded occult metal acts, and while many of those bands offset their Satanic content with a more accessible sound, this team embraces the dirty, dangerous edge of notorious black metal bands with dark and dangerous reputations. While I do appreciate the rebellious nature of those vintage lo-fi recordings, the approach doesn't quite ring true here, and I think the doomier aspects of this album would have benefited from a more polished production. With that said, I is still a seriously scary offering, possessing a “forbidden” quality that makes you feel like you've come across a secret tape of a ritual sacrifice that you weren't supposed to find.
Speaking of which: check out this clip showing the band performing an actual live Black Magick ceremony at Brooklyn's St. Vitus Bar last August...