Cypher: black metal fusion soundtrack tracking our path to Hell

Spektr, Cypher, Agonia Records, ARCD102 (2013)

It’s been several years since I heard anything by this duo and one reason is that Haemoth & Co haven’t been very prolific: “Cypher” is their first release since “Mescalyne” in 2007. The major advance in Spektr’s music since then is the musicians’ incorporation of elements from several other music genres such as industrial, melodic post-metal, jazz and the usual musique concrete and spoken voice samples with the result that this album resembles a soundtrack to an otherwise silent horror sci-fi film. There is also much manipulation of atmosphere and emotion here.

What horrific futurist film might Spektr be offering on “Cypher”? It agrees more or less with previous work of theirs in which an intrepid adventurer, investigating the deepest recesses of the human mind, crosses into a realm beyond life where not even the dead normally go but some of heightened mental and emotional sensitivities, and some training in gnostic knowledge and ritual, might dare to enter. The volume of the music goes up and down as if the whole thing were animated by an inwardly-generated self-aware consciousness. The critical Rubicon appears to take place somewhere in track 3 (“The Singularity”).

Pivotal tracks are “Teratology”, “The Singularity”, “Antimatter”, the surprisingly blues-sounding (at least in its first few minutes) “Cypher” and “Le Vitriol du Philosophe”, this last being the most brutally industrial, ambient and futuristic, and the least black metal. Indeed, black metal figures much, much less than might be expected: the guitars are still sharp but have a more melodic bent. The long tracks rampage across the musical spectrum and dive into quite unexpected turns and twists; the short tracks are usually quiet ambient interludes between long tracks.

Only about 45 minutes, the album feels like a mammoth effort on the duo’s part to create a hellish odyssey into demonic kingdoms, out of which our explorer ends up crawling out of a wormhole into a future society run by self-aware machines powered by simulacra of human brains. There is not a flesh-n-blood critter in sight. One shudders to think that the one thing more terrifying than what Satan and his acolytes can magick up is the mind, individual and collective, that can imagine Satan and the demonic hierarchy in the first place. As I sit and type this review, am I already looking into the shape of Hell?

Contact: Agonia Records