Slidhr | 'Deluge'
Slidhr's 2006 demo was a fine release of vicious, blinkered Black Metal that was, in retrospect, perhaps a little bit too indebted to its creator JD's other band of the time, Myrkr.
A 7″ the following year didn't so much build on the sound as reinforce the band's manifesto of cold and dour hatred.
It wasn't until the 'Ex Nihilio' split release with Rebirth of Nefast in 2008 that their own identity truly came into focus.
And what a record that was! In my eyes it was, and is, a masterpiece of contemporary BM and one of the best releases ever to have come out of the Irish underground.
That release saw Slidhr slow down, take a deep breath of foul air and deliver track after monumental track of towering obsidian might.
The production was bigger, the riffs were bigger and JD's vocals took on a new and exciting character that set him quite apart from the baying pack. The whole thing sounded so mature and confident that it reduced the man's previous work in Sol Axis and Myrkr to a stepping stone on the path to its glory.
The blinkers were slipping away.
To say that this album is laden with anticipation, then, is no overstatement and with five years of gestation under its belt it had better deliver the goods.
The first notable aspect of this record is the colossal production. Recorded by Rebirth of Nefast main man, Wann, in Studio Emissary (in his new home of Iceland), the succinctly titled 'Deluge' sees Slidhr's sound explode outwards in an all-consuming avalanche of heaviness and outright darkness.
Every aspect of the sound found on 'Ex Nihilio' has been magnified. From the epic structures and towering riffs to JD's versatile and throat damaging vocal delivery, it swarms and engulfs you in a massive conflagration of sound.
Unlike the previous record, however, this one is not an immediate hit.
It is dense and labyrinthine and brings to mind the obscured murkiness of Myrkr's swansong, 'Black Illumination', on which the same two men were in cahoots, but where Myrkr's album was utterly suffocating the production on 'Deluge' takes that wall of sound approach and opens it up to reveal layer upon layer of subtlety.
It's an intricately woven tapestry that demands time and attention before it unravels to reveal its full glory. Believe me; I'm still working on it.
If ‘Ex Nihilio’ conjured images of unimaginably vast marble pillars disappearing into the thunderous tempests above, then ‘Deluge’ gets us up close to the monoliths, revealing the mind-shattering mercurial horrors decorating their surface.
'Wielding Daggers' hums gently to life with a soothing sequence of notes before ripping into ugly life. Jostling between up-tempo clanging chaos and stately mid-paced crush it throws everything at you in its first few minutes.
Buried underneath the chaos and crush is a keen sense of groove rare enough to most BM and on paper seemingly antithetical to the cause, but it is one of the band's most defining features. Making music that is both dark and memorable is no mean feat but that is what JD has managed here, no more so than on 'Hex' which sounds like a natural progression from the 'Ex Nihilio' sessions.
The crone-like vocal delivery, that hangs somewhere between ancient, cobwebbed and timeless, is absolutely compelling. It is positively theatrical, in fact. It sounds like the man is wrenching every word from the depths of his guts. Reports of gobs of blood being hacked up during the recording make perfect sense.
It is when pounding along at a comfortable canter that ‘Deluge’ most comes to life, allowing the production to glow and show off its magnificent depth.
'Symbols Obscuring' is fierce, showing a breadth of ideas from the muscular new school of BM elites to a contemplative Gothic Rock influence.
While the marriage of BM to Goth is nothing new and is an area that has been mined quite deeply in the last few years, Slidhr tend to use that influence here to augment the burly nature of the BM aspect rather than completely dilute one with the other. In other words, it acts as a reprieve without compromising the core darkness.
There is a moment of absolute genius on 'Rejoin the Dirt' where the chaos subsides and a simple, single note is strummed out, breaking here and there to allow an elastic, slinky chord to ring out. The effect is simply trance-inducing. I could listen to it all day.
A similar effect is used in 'Their Blood' with the powerful bass guitar dominating a pounding groove while the guitars ring openly across the top. It's these moments of inspired black ecstasy that truly set this band apart from any other BM bands operating in the country, and most anywhere else.
'Death of the Second Sun', like 'Hex', will be familiar to anyone who has been paying attention as it was released as an album teaser and it is clear to see why- the song is phenomenal. Mixing that simple, primal power that holds the core of these songs together with an expansive vision, it simply demands attention. Another highlight in terms of vocals, we get everything from larynx-shredding screams to moaned spoken-word and even a small bit of melody at the song's end.
'Unseen' brings back in that Gothic haughtiness with its vocal melodies, too. They add small dashes of colour to the bleakness.
The penultimate 'As the Dead' is decent enough, if unspectacular by comparison to the other songs here but it soon gives way to the monumental finale that is 'Rays Like Blades' whose opening riff swarms like malignant wasps before a choral chant give way to an embittered, spat-out verse.
It sounds absolutely brutal. Marching out at a final, trudging Doom pace stamps the album to a fittingly ugly close.
This is a huge album in all respects. Its production is monstrous, the song-craft is frightening and it will demand your undivided attention. Otherworldly, dark and often genuinely surprising, with 'Deluge' Slidhr have re-established their rightful place among the elite and for that, respect.
4.6/5 – Andrew Cunningham ::: 27/03/13