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Rotting Sky
Sedation Michael Siebert , March 15th, 2018 17:18

Bewildering, beautiful bombastic black-metal noise from Sentient Ruin Laboratories of Oakland.

It’s a rare thing for an album to bridge the gap between oppressive brutality and life-affirming majesty, but Rotting Sky manage it with a bewildering grace. The solo project of Nux Vomica’s Tim Messing, Rotting Sky achieve blackened transcendence on their only proper release, Sedation. The album deftly manoeuvres between blown-out electronics, black metal fury and heart-wrenching sincerity. Never jarring or awkward, it combines disparate elements into a singular, bombastic mass.

Three of the four tracks feature blistering electronics; where other bands use similar moments as filler, Messing only deploys them when necessary. Originally released in 2014 on the since-disbanded Grimoire Cassette Cvlture, Sedation at times recalls Gnaw Their Tongues’ noisy sensibilities.

The soundscapes on Sedation are matched by some of the most composed and rhythmically sound black metal in recent memory. For all its experimentalism, this album is full of honest-to-god riffs. What is most remarkable is how those riffs are not pushed to the forefront. This is in large part due to the production, which never allows any single element to stand out. Where there are guitar leads that would please any black metal classicist, there are pianos and what might be strings vying for attention alongside them.

Even the softer elements leave room for surprises. On opening track ‘Smile’, a lush piano line sits atop shredding guitars. By the end, we’ve heard it repeated relentlessly. Yet when the distorted guitars, drums and vocals suddenly drop out, we realise that the keys progress with a kind of discordant uneasiness. Clean guitar comes in as well, though it avoids the false sincerity of post-rock. This is Deafheaven without the frills.

Sedation ends with a sharp left turn on closer ‘Ivory’, a menacing track that builds to a critical mass before an abrupt finish. Anchored around thundering drums and a shuddering guitar, ‘Ivory’ also features excellent clean vocals that evoke monastic chanting. As it builds, Messing’s pained howls pierce through the militaristic rhythm. It only lasts for a moment, though; suddenly, with a brief squelch of feedback, the album is over.

That Sedation is only just now really seeing the light of day is a shame. It could rightly sit among the best of the past decade’s black metal. But now, with new artwork and a gorgeous vinyl release, Rotting Sky will hopefully find their audience. And now, this heaving beauty is all the more vital.