Released: 2009, Southern Lord
Norway, and the city of Bergen in particular, continue to produce black metal bands like mosquitoes multiplying in a putrid swamp. Orcustus is yet another Norwegian black metal band, formed in 2002 by guitarists Tormenter and Infernus of Gorgoroth and drummer Dirge Rep of Enslaved/Gehenna. With the members being involved in many other projects, Orcustus’s self-titled debut marched slowly but inexorably on towards its 2009 release on Southern Lord, two years after recording began. The band’s name is derived from the word Orcus, meaning hell or hades. The band delivers hell both visually and aurally, from the blatantly disgusting cover art and jacket photos, to the diabolical blast beats and tremolo guitar patterns. Standing in the middle of the inferno is Taipan, throatily croaking about hell and devilish ceremonies.
ORCUSTUS features seven songs clocking in at around 40 minutes and “Coil” leads things off at a whiplash speed, with an immediate tremolo riff and piston-like drumming. The album ends with “Asphyxiokenisis” and in between there is practically no change in the breakneck tempos, fast picked guitar riffs, and demonic vocals. Prizes should be awarded to all that can tell a difference between any of the songs. Overlaying the buzz and fuzz is a competent production job briefly thrown down a pit to produce that raw and crappy low-fidelity sound that is so highly valued in the black metal genre. Unquestionably, the music is tight and well-rehearsed as evidenced by the many complex Coroner-like passages on the album such as the middle of “Of Sophistry, Obsession, and Paranoia”. The guitar work is impressive, considering the blinding speed and constantly changing riffs and the drums manage to keep up. Somewhat unusual for black metal albums is a bass that occasionally stands out in the fray, as it does on ORCUSTUS. The lack of variety wears thin pretty quickly though, and the admittedly impressive musicianship could not ward off boredom for me.
Orcustus’s brand of black metal is an authentic vintage from the land that perfected the genre, unlistenable to some and nirvana to others. Most fans know which camp they are in and should direct themselves accordingly, but fans of Gorgoroth, Emperor and the other old school black metal bands will definitely want to grab this album. As a side project, it is difficult to predict how much material Orcustus will produce, as the band broke up after recording the album in June 2008. However, Taipan and Dirge have resurrected the band but are currently the only two members. How much time they are able to devote to Orcustus versus their various other projects will determine how long this resurrection lasts.