A cornucopia of fusion black metal / psychedelia / horror-film soundtrack music on the Rhinocervs label

Rhinocervs, RH-08: Untitled 1 & 2 (2011); RH-07 (2011); RH-11 (2011); RH-12 (2012), RH-13 (2012)

In early 2013, I stumbled across several bands based in southern California that belonged to a network known as the Black Twilight Circle: these groups play fusion black metal / psychedelia shot through with elements of death metal and ambient, and often inspired by aspects of Mexican indigenous cultures, in particular Aztec and Mayan mythologies and beliefs. I have done some reviews already of cassettes released by a few of these bands (Blue Hummingbird on the Left, Kuxan Suum, Muknal) which were released on the now-defunct Crepusculo Negro label. At about the same time, I became aware of another couple of guys involved with the Black Twilight Circle folks who run a music project and a label under the name of Rhinocervs (sic). All the music these two fellows perform, either singly or as a duo, and sometimes with guest musicians, under the Rhinocervs project is released through the label and the albums, issued on cassette tape, carry only the catalogue numbers as their titles. So far I’ve heard five albums, all fairly short, and often featuring cover artwork of a sinister nature, suggesting a view of the universe as something indifferent and perhaps malevolent and hostile towards humanity.

I’d say the best introduction to Rhinocervs the project and Rhinocervs the label is RH-13, a blistering and furious storm of blast-beat deathened black metal. Wildly deranged scrabbly guitar careens madly throughout and drums are just barely about to keep up banging away. The vocals, shrouded in reverb, seethe with evil and aggression: just as well I have no idea what the daemon vocalist is complaining about, else I’d be hiding in a self-made underground bunker in fear of hordes of aliens soon to descend on planet Earth to battle a resurgent army of tentacled titans from beneath Antarctica. As the tape continues on – or rather, burns a hole through your consciousness – the wild insanity ratchets up to a higher, more hyper-manic level. Quite amazing that the Rhinocervs guys can maintain such a level of intense emotion and aggression, and on top of that add some horror-movie ambience. The listening experience can be exhausting as later tracks include psychedelic experimental effects in addition to the fast-paced and brutal music; the all-instrumental final track is sure to blow most listeners’ minds through its sheer demented and dissonant drone-guitar genius. One gazes at the tape’s front-cover sleeve with its apocalyptic fireball slamming into a roof and imagines the agony denizens of the humble hut must feel on being instantly deep-fried into over-sized nuggety schnitzel pieces.

My personal favourite of the Rhinocervs tapes is RH-07, a dark creep-fest of horror-movie soundtrack black metal / psychedelia fusion. The general drift is towards a highly atmospheric and monumental epic music with choirs, frequent use of effects and a sense of tragic majesty. Tracks are often short and cut off abruptly, giving the impression of being movie-trailer pieces cut out from a long and sprawling movie soundtrack that might stretch over a trilogy of films. The range of music varies from fast blast-beat black / death to slower doomy metal with strong atmosphere and emotion. The vocals are often outstanding in their general slavering reptilian quality.

RH-11 isn’t far behind RH-07 in its magnificent if deranged perversity: blast-beat black metal, drenched in hellish inimical space-ambient psychedelia effects and accompanied by delirious drunken singing, rockets along as though black existential nihilism were about to vote itself out of existence in the next five minutes. (An entire musical industry sincerely hopes not.) The gopher-it approach is so extreme and wacky that all songs blessed by it zap off into blinding radioactive greatness and stay there forever. Tragedy, majesty, anguish and a sense of oncoming overwhelming disaster in the face of which one is utterly helpless and can’t help but be terrified can all be found here. The recording is highly immersive and if you’re a normal human being with the full range of emotions, you can’t help but be swept away in a maelstrom of high emotional drama.

It seems impossible that the Rhinocervs guys would score a hat-trick in popping out tapes of music so goofy and extreme that they fall through the back-door into essential listening but RH-12, coming right after RH-07 and RH-11 in the series (there being neither RH-09 nor RH-10 at this time of writing and RH-08 being released before RH-07), completes a trilogy of out-there fusion black metal / space-ambient psychedelia. This tape is much noisier and trance-like than its predecessors; the contrast of guitar-generated noise buzz with darkly sinuous lead guitar jewel tones can really turn a listener’s head inside out. At points throughout the recording, the singing can be as death-rattle dry and inhuman as fellow US blacksters Njiqahdda used to manage in their early career. An atmosphere of evil pervades the album as the demented music approaches speed-of-light dimensions in its pace.

Let’s roll back to the first Rhinocervs release RH-08: Untitled 1 & 2, a raw punky black metal / thrash affair with variable production; some songs are clear and others have a muddied sound, suggesting that parts of the album were recorded at different times and in different places. It’s possible that for each track, a different set of musicians features with either one of or both the regular Rhinocervs men the common denominator. Raw energy and enthusiasm power the music: on some tracks the drumming is powerful and there is a distinctive fast-paced lead guitar sound that borders on manic without falling into the extremes achieved by other Rhinocervs work. For this reason, those angels among us that fear to tread where fools have long disappeared will find this early release an ideal introduction to Rhinocervs and the Black Twilight Circle generally. As the album proceeds, the music dives into delirious space psychedelic territory with spaceship loads of energy to spare and the second half of the recording is far superior than the first half in style and variety of music.

I don’t know much about Rhinocervs apart from knowing that one of the duo also has a solo black metal project called Tukaaria. Folks interested in finding out more and ordering some of their releases and other bands’ releases can contact them at this link. As the label is small, some of the tapes may have small print runs and might already be sold out. Perhaps some time in the future, when the Black Twilight Circle bands register higher in the public consciousness than they do now, these Rhinocervs releases might be repackaged as compilations. They are certainly worth hunting down for their sheer verve and energy.

Rhinocervus Soundcloud page

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