Black metal has its share of purists, steadfast in keeping the traditions of old alive despite ever-shifting tides of experimentation and progressivism within the genre. But that’s an awfully boring attitude to take regarding a form of music built on extreme tempos, extreme darkness and intensity. Various artists within the U.S. Black Metal scene, from Agalloch to Krallice, have been pulling the boundaries of black metal like taffy into different corners and crevices, revealing just how expansive its sounds can be. Fellow Profound Lore signees Castavet do likewise, taking the sonic intensity of the genre and blending it with the melodic density of D.C. post-hardcore and the complexity of post-rock.
Castevet’s debut album, Mounds of Ash, is built on a foundation of powerful melodies delivered via dense guitars and complex beat structures. Where peers like Agalloch might take cues from Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Kronos Quartet, Castevet mines sonic ground similar to that of Fugazi or Failure, their mesmerizing minor-key riffs executed to sound as breathtaking as they are viscerally fierce. There’s a twinge of the old school in the opening march of “Red Star Sans Chastity,” but soon a maelstrom of distorted, yet razor sharp riffs comes bursting through, with a harrowing yet melodic feel that’s anything but traditional. It’s burly and it’s destructive, but it’s also much more fascinating and intricate in its details, a precision exercise in bottling thunder.
The title track finds the band deviating even farther into post-hardcore sounds, with riff structures reminiscent of Jawbox cascading atop relentless, tom-heavy beats. It’s a song that kicks ass with its beastly furor, but has a complex sensibility, further exemplifying the duality the band puts forth on Mounds of Ash. The band drifts ever closer to hardcore with their mighty power chord assault on “Grey Matter,” and usher in a jaw-dropping introduction to the rhythmically labyrinthine “Stones.” The band saves some of the biggest surprises for instrumental “Wreathed In Smoke,” however, as they drop the tempo, turn down the distortion and even introduce a horn section, revealing a truly dynamic and elegant three minutes.
While Castevet is but one of many bands who put an invigorating new spin on extreme metal, theirs is wholly unique. It’s meaty but its versatile, elegant but fearsome, and informed by some highly unexpected sources (the band has cited Talk Talk and Derek Bailey as some of their biggest influences). But perhaps the most unexpected thing of all is that an album this dynamic and innovative is actually a debut.
Krallice – Dimensional Bleedthrough
Fugazi – Red Medicine
Cobalt – Gin
Listen: Castevet – MySpace
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.