Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Servile Sect - "SVRRENDER" (2012) [Handmade Birds]

Outer space is fucking frightening. I know, it's weird, but hear me out. Most people romanticize and even find comfort in Carl Sagan's "pale blue dot" speech, but, for some odd reason, the concept of extreme nothingness is absolutely horrifying. It seems sort of silly, but when looking into the night sky, there is infinite horror in attempting to comprehend that the stars which appear millimeters apart are actually billions of lightyears from each other (and, chances are, they've also gone out by now, as well). Aside from some cosmic dust, the vast expanse of space's overlapping endlessness is almost Lovecraftian in nature; impossible to describe and as maddening as it is empty.

Released companion piece to their previous album, the critically acclaimed TRVTH, Servile Sect's SVRRENDER seems to double as a complement to its predecessor, both in performance and atmosphere. As awesome as TRVTH is (I still feel stupid for not including it in my "Best of 2011" list), it does sort of take on the "romantic deep space" character which seems to confuse me. The pensive, melodic black metal and lush, alien synthesizers found on TRVTH, however perfect and grandiose, didn't really fit into my fear-shaped definition of space. Though the atmosphere of TRVTH does not negate the album's brilliance, the agoraphobic, hellish sounds presented on SVRRENDER definitely cater more to my "there is infinite nothing out there and it is horrifying" view of outer space. Much like TRVTH, SVRRENDER's two sides are completely different entities, one more caustic and traditionally bent, and its opposite an experiment in sound, seeing how far they can stretch the definition of "black metal." Unlike TRVTH, however, this album starts off with a metallic punch. After a short introduction of theremin sounds and rumbling synthesizer, the ambiance seemingly explodes into thick, terrifying, orthodox black metal, only to subside into ambiance once again. Side A speeds forward through expansive drones and black metal supernovae, searing the listener's ears like moon dust (apparently moon dust was so caustic NASA was afraid it would eat through Neil Armstrong's space suit). Though the metal presented on this first side isn't as...adventurous as Servile Sect's previous outputs, the almost atonal approach, coupled with inhuman feedback and strange interludes, almost perfectly outlines the sort of fear I feel when trying to comprehend the infinite, albeit compressed so as to bring the stars closer together.

Side B, on the other hand, is an absolute monster. I never really expected Servile Sect to throw their collective hat into the drone/doom metal ring, yet they pull it off flawlessly. Like a lo-fi cousin of like-minded experimental masters Locrian, the three tracks on side B lurch forward at the rate of Neptune's solar orbit, stacking layers of field recordings, synthesizers, and treated vocals over a steady base of plodding drums and steady bass. As unexpected as it is incredible, Servile Sect's take on drone/doom has been one of the coolest surprises of the past year.

The nightmarish sounds of SVRRENDER will come as a surprise to recent Servile Sect fans, but for the few who longed for an album to rival Stratospheric Passenger, it is time to get excited. A much more "orthodox" (I use that term loosely) companion to its predecessor, SVRRENDER's frightening depiction of deep space and madness is the perfect companion to your favorite 1950s "They Came From MARS" film (or for the extremely stupid weather we've had here in the Midwest). Out of the 250 copies made, I believe there are only a handful left, so be sure to grab one for yourself from Handmade Birds Records before they're gone for good.


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