Behold the Silent Dwellers: dissonant BM / post-metal depiction of dystopian repressive city environments

Aversio Humanitatis, Behold the Silent Dwellers, France, Debemur Morti Productions, DMP0188 CD digipak / 12″ vinyl (2020)

Those of us who love the dark dissonant sounds and the associated immersive gloomy, misanthropic vistas of bands like Deathspell Omega but sometimes find the esoteric philosophies and concepts behind their music overblown might like to check out Spanish BM band Aversio Humanitatis’ most recent album “Behold the Silent Dwellers”. This work comes nine years after the band’s first album “Abandonment Ritual” though the time in-between was filled with a couple of split recordings with other artists and an EP in 2017, on which the band redefined its style and focus. “Behold …” definitely is a very bleak and brutal recording with its concerns based around a theme of dystopian city environments. The music captures the chaos, grit and violent instability of modern society and those forces that combine and conspire to ground humanity and Nature alike into the dust.

The titles of the six tracks on offer appear to be anthropomorphic descriptions of different aspects of repressive Western society: track 3, “The Sculptor of Thoughts”, might be describing the power propaganda to shape people’s thinking and behaviour; track 5, “The Watcher in the Walls” might be referring to surveillance technology; and most horrifyingly, the last track “The Scribe in the Dust” might portend the lone survivor scratching out what s/he can remember of global civilisation long after it has collapsed and everything made of steel and concrete has long crumbled into ruins or been buried under carpets of moss and soil. The music has a slight cavernous feel and though it does have a gritty edge, it has polish and a professional sheen. The vocals likewise are slightly gritty and raspy but in parts are much cleaner than would be expected of a straight-out black metal band. The music’s style is melodic and spacious enough that on most songs it can be described as a mix of post-metal and BM.

While there is plenty of despondent atmospheric space behind the music, the musicians opt not to flip back and forth between all-out attacking BM and episodes of cold ethereal-noise ambience: they just keep going with the brutal delivery of screaming anguished vocals, flippy percussion, dazzling jangle tremolo guitar and solid riffing. The overall impression is of a relentless machine crushing the life out of whatever humanity and organic nature still exist in urbanised inhabitants. The better, more slightly varied songs come in the album’s second half: “The Wanderer of Abstract Paths” and “The Watcher in the Walls” offer some unexpected surprise changes in the usual fast-paced onslaught. “The Scribe in the Dust” has a slightly doomier delivery and sound.

Technically the album is very good and it presents a very accessible and spacious style of dissonant black metal that is still bleak and desperate in its mood and themes. It never feels overpowering or suffocating and the guitar sounds have a strong hypnotic power. The vocals can be monotonous in their continuous anguished howling and songs tend to sound incomplete, probably because once they hit a certain level of intensity early on, they stay like that to the end. The music feels very shoehorned into a particular narrow BM / post-metal template of song composition in which riff upon riff piles up and technical delivery counts for more than compositional arrangement. If the band had been willing to experiment more with their concept and the music, and had been prepared to go outside black metal much more, this second album could have been a really great recording.

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