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Black Cilice
Transfixion Of Spirits Noel Gardner , October 8th, 2019 06:59

The mysterious Black Cilice offer up more essential extremity, finds Noel Gardner

Musical projects by people who wish to keep their identities secret are conspicuous by how few of them actually succeed in this aim. A world comprised of four types of people – doxxers, blunderers, snitches and party poopers – will do that. Yet Black Cilice, a droppable, oft-whispered name in extreme metal subterranea, has managed to remain near-impeccably clandestine since the first demo tapes under that name a decade ago. Generally understood to be from Portugal, and a solo entity on record (the few live shows to date have featured four members and a combo of headgear, corpsepaint and lighting sufficient for disguise), if you’re reading this post-curious click and wondering why anyone would care about some metal guy you’ve never heard of, you’re missing the point. The community is relatively insular, sure, but it harbours fanaticism in the best way.

Black Cilice is the kind of black metal that rewards obsessive listening: inscrutable, feedback-lashed blurs of cloudy agony, staunchly and tactically lo-fi but with a gimlet eye for textural specifics. His last album, 2017’s Banished From Time (released, as is this, by raw-like-charcoal German label Iron Bonehead), inched towards more conventionally filthy BM by being somewhat blown-out and riff-driven. Transfixion Of Spirits, four songs averaging about nine minutes apiece, again retreats into a wyrd, smeared realm, even further away from hooks and payoffs than before. All is paradoxical: gauzy violence, inverted blasting, guitar tones so obscene and piercing they attain a droning, psychedelic quality. With a wholly different production, ‘Outerbody Incarnation’ would be an alternation of thick, doomy stomping and whipsmart blastbeat/tremolo sections – in which case it would also be a wholly different song by a wholly different band, and not this celestial cyclone of oppressive chaos. ‘Revelations’, which closes the album, features a submerged but audible clean guitar figure amidst the stramash, something of a revelation in itself.

I’m slightly loath to talk up this album’s un-BM context too much, partly because there’s no way anyone reasonably versed in black metal could listen to Transfixion Of Spirits and think Black Cilice had any other origin story. It’s putrid and animalistic and hints at the ‘war’ and ‘depressive’ subcategories of the genre without those shoes ever quite fitting. Additionally, talk of drones and ambience and such invites mention of blackgaze, or shoegazing black metal, which is usually prim and diffident in a way this scorched-earth barrage absolutely isn’t. As it goes, though, the main outside-the-box band I’m reminded of here is Flying Saucer Attack (check the wind-tunnel guitar on ‘Darkness And Fog’ from about the seventh minute), who did ‘tactical lo-fi’ more brilliantly than almost anyone before or since, and maintained a similar relationship with verse-chorus-verse shoegaze as Black Cilice does with its chosen genre. Either superlative or in a category of one, but essential extremity however you approach it.