Upping the ante is a fun thing to do. Take something you’re already doing well and amplify the shit out of it. Yet that also could go awry if you try too hard or are just doing something extreme and taking it over the top because you know you can. It has to be done right to be effective and meaningful, otherwise it’s just loud noises.
“Baphometic Chaosium,” the third album from Los Angeles-based black metal heathens Lightning Swords of Death, manages to help the band take their game to the next level in a way that sounds well thought out, calculated, and accomplished. They sound like a new band, in ways, from their last record, 2010’s “The Extradimensional Wound,” and their playing, approach, and chemistry are abundant and overflowing on this tremendous new album. They try new things, they show off new sides of their personalities, and they don’t paint by numbers on this record one bit. Yeah, there’s a lot of menace, a lot of audio violence, but the presentation itself and the way this record sounds proves this band wasn’t comfortable staying where they were and playing it safe.
LSOD still bludgeon for the most part, and speed and destruction remain important elements of their game. But take a close listen to what’s brewing on “Baphometic,” and you can hear their disassociation from the norm and the expected and a newfound dive into weird sounds, strange compositions, bleakness, and really interesting vocals that still are menacing for the most part but also find new ways to be scary. At times, vocalist Autarch seems in a trance, warbling strange things that sound zombified, but it never comes off as anything but strangely effective. It’s like what Tom G. Warrior did with Celtic Frost when he’d go on monotone, ghostly rants. That happens here, too, and injects a new kind of personality into LSOD’s music.
The LSOD crew now are a five piece unit, with Autarch combined with guitarists Roskva and newcomer “Inverted” Chris Velez, bassist Menno, and drummer Mike Vega. It is apparent, especially if you followed the band since their 2007 debut “The Golden Plague” as I have, how far this band has come since their formation a decade ago, and if the incredible leap in quality and poisonous visions we saw from “Extradimensional” to “Baphometic” is any indication on what the future holds, we may just be at the beginning of a volcanic, intense run. We also might be seeing one of USBM’s most creative bands, one that finally may have figured itself out and is ready to crush full speed ahead. And they already were awesome before this album.
The record opens, fittingly, with the title cut, with its eerie start, loopy guitar lines, and eventually bomb blasts into speed and melody. The growly shrieks from Autarch declare being “compelled by flame” as the fury completely unloads on you. “Acid Gate” is where things really start to get interesting. The verses have Autarch bellowing trance-like, like someone reciting from a horrible script in a dream, and while he returns to the more savage vocals here and there, his robotic recitation is what really stands out here. It’s a fucking great song, maybe the best in the band’s history. “Psychic Waters” goes for the throat again with dizzying guitars and terrifying screams, and that leads into the spooky, ghostly instrumental “Cloven Shields,” a song that gives you a physical breather, but not a mental one.
“Chained to Decay” is vicious and doom-encrusted, with Autarch hissing, “Sleep. There is no sleep inside my casket.” The song is punishing and murky, and the slow-driving madness gets inside your head and rots away at your insides. “R’Lyeh Wuurm” obviously takes its roots in Lovecraft and is purely terrifying. Much of the song is embedded in black metal storming, with Autarch howling, “My name must never be spoken in this life,” dragging the listener on a suffocating trip under the ocean floor. “Epicyclarium” brings back Autarch’s bellowing, as the song sonically is tied to “Acid Gate,” and its calculating delivery burns a hole through you. It’s not particularly fast but it is dangerously heavy, and the hopelessness of lines such as “we shall never find our way back” hammer home the song’s intent. Closer “Oaken Chrysalis” is the most pure example of black metal on the whole record, so much so that it seems like an odd ending to a mind-stretching record. It’s a killer song, though, and it should provide some wonderful bursts of violence live, but it just feels weird as a finale.
Lightning Swords of Death have come a long way in 10 years, but never has their growth accelerated more than it has the last three years. These guys are becoming one of USBM’s more compelling bands, and this record requires many listens in order for you to absorb each bizarre bit. LSOD are a killer unit that just seem to be getting their fires raging, and “Baphometic Chaosium” is an evil spirit that returns for you each night when you’re at your most vulnerable.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/lightningswordsofdeath
To buy the album, go here: http://www.indiemerchstore.com/item/17451/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.metalblade.com/us/