It would be easy to assume that Itheist’s music is based on hatred; after all, the duo’s self-titled debut album is steeped in the ritual darkness of orthodox black metal, which is itself a scene closely associated with nihilism and the darker side of humanity. Furthermore, there’s clear musical comparisons to be made to that scene, with the album being built upon foundation of a blasphemous, religious atmosphere and blasting black metal. Yet Itheist also tap into the more forward-thinking and adventurous spirit of bands such as Ulcerate and Akercocke, who themselves explore themes beyond simple hatred. It makes this an album that is as interesting as it is hard-hitting, that espouses not so much a sense of hatred, but a sense of personal empowerment through the lens of Satanism.
Not that all of this may be clear upon first listen. Itheist is an album that has a lot going on at any one point, and early listens can feel bewildering. It takes some time for the album to begin to make sense and show its strengths, but once it does, it shows itself to be something quite remarkable. A melodic sensibility runs throughout, providing a sense of contrast to the more aggressive, blasting sections and overall sense of dissonance, something which is often lacking in this strain of extreme metal, serving to keep the music interesting and impactful.
Itheist may not be the most immediate of albums, but if you’re willing to put the time in, then it more than rewards such efforts. It is an album of distinctive character, that looks beyond the commonly accepted boundaries of what black metal can or should be, whilst still staying true to the spirit of the genre. Hypnotic, muscular, and forceful, this is black metal as self-empowerment.
Itheist is available now and can be purchased here.
Words: Stuart Wain