The perfect way to discover Opus Serpens, the split EP from Ashencult and Mephorash, would be to mysteriously unearth a black cassette with ancient symbols carved in the plastic from the soil of your lawn while gardening. The fact that I listened to it on Bandcamp is only unfortunate because it denies me that story. But it’s a good thing for every black-hearted metalhead that this split exists, even in digital form. But soon that won’t even be necessary, as you can now pre-order this release on either silver or black vinyl and conjure unknown evil from your turntable.
Ashencult hide somewhere in the meatless ribcage of Philadelphia, in a neighborhood I imagine looks like the elephant graveyard from The Lion King. “My Tenth Death” is based in melodic, somber black metal that brings the grace and danger back to the genre that thrived in the days of tape-trading. But there’s a sharpened, sophisticated edge of this double-sided axe, and even while it blasts without mercy there’s an overarching sense of drama that makes it feel immediate and emotive. The lead guitar work is superb and the drums plow through fields of bones with a rock vibe that avoids the occasionally stiff blastbeats that lesser BM bands employ. The vocals sound like they come from some creature who has seen dinosaurs come and go and watched the forces of nature and man drive species to extinction. It’s a fantastic song with texture and suspense that compares favorably with early Emperor, but with a little less grime.
“Atramentous Ungod Suspect” closes the album, a 9+ minute song from Uppsala, Sweden’s own Mephorash. Commencing with low groaning and gothic organs, it sounds like it could be rooted in the candelabra-lit crypts of early-90s Cradle of Filth. But don’t let that fool you, when the song begins foaming at the mouth and thrashing wildly the guitars provide extra bite and sound heavy as hell. With guest vocals from Acherontas V. Priest, the song features a variety of vocal approaches, ranging from a traditional black metal rasp to the insane whispers of some leprous gatekeeper. The fastest moments of this song could stab unprepared metal novices to death. When all’s said and done, the song reminds me of a grittier Borknagar song that was raised in complete darkness in some forgotten catacombs, nursed on the milk of plague-carrying rats.
This is a must-purchase for anyone who likes bleak black metal with tasteful keyboards, or anyone who enjoys extreme music with a sense of mystery and majesty. I’m definitely excited to hear this spinning in my room, and I’m looking forward to each band’s future releases.
Listen to Opus Serpens over here on Bandcamp, and check out the pre-order links for their beautiful 10” records: http://unholyanarchyrecords.bandcamp.com/album/opus-serpens
Or support these bands and this awesome release from Unholy Anarchy Records by pre-ordering this on vinyl from their address: http://unholyanarchyrecords.bigcartel.com/product/ashencult-mephorash-opus-serpens-10-split
Follow Ashencult over on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/ASHENCULT
And do the same for Mephorash here: https://www.facebook.com/Chaliceofthagirion