In the past 15 years or so–and maybe even longer–the idea of a band with a distinct, can’t-mistake-them sound has eroded. With the tidal wave of music at our disposal and the amount of like-minded bands popping up like a rapidly spreading rash, homogenization has become the rule, and the era of the unique performer has died a slow, painful death.
That is what makes bands such as Occultation so special. They don’t exactly have a swelling resume quite yet (their debut “Three & Seven” only dropped in 2012), but already they have mastered their own sound and personality, and there is no confusing them with any other band in metal. Their psychedelic, doomy, atmospheric sound is so difficult to pinpoint, because there is so much going on in their music and so many influences at work. Friends with opposing music viewpoints, one awash in early Sabbath and Mercyful Fate, the other a devout follower of the Cure and Sioxsie and the Banshees, could unite and find spiritual middle ground with this band and their enthralling second record “Silence in the Ancestral House.” Comprised of guitarist E.M. (also of black metal orb weavers Negative Plane) bassist A.L.., and absolutely commanding vocalist/drummer V.B., this band has created something very special and quite dark in their time together. That pays huge dividends on this second record, an album that deserves to be heard in the pitch black if your mind can handle the psychotic horror of it all.
That’s another thing that makes this record so fascinating, morbid, and magical. It sounds like it is soundtracking a ritual or séance. It doesn’t sound inspired by those activities. It sounds like it is interpreting dark spiritual actions going on at that very moment, with minds wandering beyond the limits of this plane of existence. It’s easy to say the music is perfect for this time of the year (not that it’s stopped me in the past), but it really is. It’s gorgeous, haunting, dangerous, and born of fire. And just to go back to V.B.’s work, she is absolutely on top of her game. Every word that comes from her mouth, every ghostly line takes you prisoner and pulls you into a world you probably never have explored before. She’ll give you chills and seduce you, and there is no other choice than submit to her call. Oh, another interesting fact is Kurt Ballou produced this one at his Godcity Studios, standing as the most unique recording that’s ever marked his resume.
Simply titled opener “Intro” sets the stage nicely, with chimes and bells ringing out and the guitar work ramping up and leading into “The First of the Last.” This track is situated in a particularly dark melody, with guitar lines buzzing and the band loading their cauldron with mud and guts. The vocals vibrate over the horror, like a strange voice summoning you in the night, while as the song reaches its conclusion, things speed up, there are words of weird premonitions, and you’re carried right over the bloody finish line. “Laughter in the Halls of Madness” is perfectly named and engages you right away, with guitars you can’t help but blindly follow and an incredibly engaging, classically dark composition. The band launches into a furious gallop that tramples over old Iron Maiden and Mercyful Fate territory, and satisfyingly so, while the singing seems ritualistic. “All Hallow’s Fire” spills organs into the scene, with fiery melodies that should make you feel uncomfortable and in danger. There are great, smoky passages that refuse to leave your bloodstream, and as usual, V.B.’s singing bewitches and makes you feel like you might freeze to death.
“The Place Behind the Sky” is a 7:14 trip into complete mental submission, with the band making you feel like you’re able to push beyond the earthly realm and into somewhere previously unexplored. The guitars are spindly and later absolutely fire-breathing, while V.B. is in complete control telling her tale, pushing off into the cosmos, and paving a path for the guitars to charge up once more and stomp a dagger into the end of the track. This is a must-hear piece. “The Dream Tide” is a heavier track, with guitars snaking through the thing, evil sentiments afoot, and amazing interaction between E.M.’s melodies and V.B.’s expressive emotion. It’s an awesome piece where everyone’s psyches are totally aligned. “Intermission” is a brief, tranquil bridge that leads to “Forever Hereafter,” an elegant, spooky song that has really intense vocals and a tempo that speeds up as it leads into the chorus. In fact, things gets ever faster as the song goes on, adding a new edge to the band’s style and proving they’re willing to steamroll you if the situation calls for it. The 8:25 closing title cut has a gentler feel at the beginning, with even V.B.’s voice sounding lush and calming. But that doesn’t last, as the song breaks open into something of a psychedelic lullaby and then keeps swirling and gaining steam from there. The song is arresting and luring, with the vocals returning to their entrancing power, the bass pounding harder underneath, and the track eventually bleeding away into the night, leaving a sticky trail behind.
Occultation’s trademark sound and natural progression into darker realms make “Silence in the Ancestral House” a real step ahead for the band and one that could earn them more loyal followers. They have a way of getting inside you and haunting you wholly, leaving you cowering in a corner, begging for the mercy of light. It’s not a put on. It’s the real thing. This band has cornered the market on dark, mind-altering doom, and they’re a group whose music you need to engage with if you want to journey into the darkest regions of existence and beyond.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Occultation/127574070630828?fref=ts
To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/