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Album Review

Irkallian Oracle – ‘Grave Ekstasis’ – [Nuclear War Now! Productions]

Lord Gravestench   7/7/2020   12-inch, A Library

Irkallian Oracle is a Swedish black/death metal band active since 2012. Supposedly the group has six members, but I think there were only three people onstage when I saw them live a few years ago. In any event, the roles performed by all six people are given as ‘various’ on the web, so perhaps we are dealing with an amorphous collective of some kind. Ambiguous though the actual lineup may be, there is real personality and clarity of vision to be found on this 2013 debut album, which was probably one of the cooler new releases I heard that year. 

In I.O.’s musical balance of doom elegance and death metal lycanthopy, as well as in their dead-serious thematic focus on the occult (that’s magick, not satanism), I perceive a fondness for the German group Necros Christos. Also comparable are Nuclear War Now!/Iron Bonehead labelmates Grave Upheaval, Sinistrous Diabolous, Temple Nightside, and Vassafor. In fact, those latter four bands are interconnected via an assortment of overlapping members; and for that matter, at least one sometime-player in S.D., T.N., and Vassafor has also been part of Irkallian Oracle in the past.

In the company of such projects, we find ourselves squarely in the territory of what the contemptible metal journos of seven years ago were known (perhaps jokingly, as if that were any excuse) to term “murkcore”– the implications of which term may include cavernous production, often-lengthy songs, hypnotic repetition of lead riffs, and a poised, serpentine, slow-burning sense of ritual. One could also trace aspects of  this record’s atmosphere back to classic groups like (for instance) Beherit, Order From Chaos, and Mortuary Drape, but seven years after its release I’m prepared to admit that this particular crystallisation of black and death metal aesthetics was of its own moment in time. 

‘Grave Ekstasis’ achieves a really satisfying balance of  implied menace and outright aggression, conjuring esoteric mystery and bestial savagery with equal aplomb. It is sinuous grey smoke from the fading embers of a massive sacrificial pyre, rising to spell out hidden glyphs in the near-complete darkness of some long-forgotten underground vault. Grab hold of its eldritch sigils if you can.

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