, October 31st, 2016 10:51
The shamanistic devilry that Taman Shud exude in their feverish psych rock has grown in stature over the last couple of years, the mystic motifs becoming more prevalent, the lines between fantasy, parody and reality becoming increasingly blurred. Many occult rock iconoclasts use dark magic and its ilk as a platform for sonic mischief and mayhem – even the most ardent of progenitors have either been impossible to take seriously or are seriously plumbing the depths of fanatic ritualism as a form to mimic and mock. The best examples of occult rock embrace certain elements while eschewing others – namely, it’s not about raising spirits or the dead – it’s about raising hell.
The London trio’s second album Oracle War opens with the title track – playing more like the hellmouth preamble, the ritual complete, the seals broken, the gates rent asunder, with the rest of the album the vomiting aftermath. Before ‘Oracle War’ begins, there is a second of “silence”, inhabited by the faint whisper of tape hiss. This one second sets the tone of what is to come – a hint of found-sound production, as if the recordings were found at the epicenter of a Ground Zero incident, a black box that holds the key to what transpired when Pandora unclasped the lock. This short white noise burst leads to a resolute if not feverish drum beat, with the organ more insistent, before the bottom end drags the floor, the guitars flex and we are hit with what seems like an innocuous while still muscular opening gambit. The end of the song revisits this combo, yet the axis has altered markedly, the beat and keys merging in a palpitating syncopation that feels like a heart murmur, a shift in the faultline, a tear in time. All brought about said ritualistic temperance that fills the space between these two moments – all guttural vocals echoing hymnlike around a cathedral of sweat-streaked walls, senses heightened to super speed, red lights flashing strobe-like inside the skull. It’s a breathless opener that leaves its acidic, apocalyptic taint laced throughout the rest of the record.
‘Nine Knots’ lowers the vocal delivery from the throat sermons of ‘Oracle War’ to a more traditional, carnal-choir-in-a-cavern chanting, a trance that starts an obvious bent before becoming more insidious. ‘Trench Arcana’ continues this trend yet with a leaner composition underscored with a more malevolent gaze, with a motorik fever that pushes off from this terrestrial plane with a White Hills-without-the-LA-glamour-and-vacuity zeal. ‘Sunken Chapel’ evokes Boris at their basest, both irascible bile and eye-rolling mischievousness – an invocation of punishing repetition that roils into a ricochet of torn squeals and banshee howls, pure primal possession.
It is still hard to discern the mischief from the madness at times though, especially two songs at the midway point. ‘Slime Liturgy’ is exactly that – an eight minute apocryphal invocation by increments, a haunted reverie that leaks from the pores and the cracks of the earth. It could be taken as a pagan ritual, or as prosaic pisstake. This ambiguity lends weight to the visceral ‘God Repeater’, yet despite its cathartic bilious deluge at the final third, could feel like a chimera of other acts and genre tropes, the pummeling drums and chants leading to a plodding interlude before the lightning strikes.
Yet it is the twitching, gnashing energy of Oracle War that colours every septic corner here. When you listen to the guttural grind of ‘Canaan’s Jewel’, for example, you can feel the primordial dirge stirring the natural order of things, an elemental shift that aims to redirect the ley-lines of the land. The metronomic guitar chime that kickstarts this nightmare underscores a ritualistic dragging of the soul – a cleanse of Lovecraftian lacerations and sandpaper scars. ‘Cerulean Exequy’ is the final membrane of sanity frayed away.
Taman Shud proclaims that their latest efforts were divined through concentrated efforts to commune with aquatic races that will inhabit the Earth when the world as we know it has ceased to exist. Whether you take these mantras at face value or with a pillar of salt is beyond the point. The earth has been scorched for your enjoyment.