Ocularchy: occult-themed war metal with a blackened punk / industrial edge

Graal, Ocularchy, Canada, self-released, cassette (2022)

Despite the alarming artwork on their debut album and the violent nature of their occult-themed war metal music, which might persuade you to think the musicians reside deep below the Earth’s mantle in its more superheated regions, Graal are actually a duo based in Sydney on Cape Breton Island in eastern Nova Scotia, in Canada. According to Graal’s Bandcamp page, “Ocularchy” is an “esoteric exploration of the Saturnian current in Irish myth” which seems at odds with the fiery spontaneous combustion depicted on the cover. I’m sure though Graal guys H and JB have their concept and its sources and inspirations well under control as their shouty and declamatory occult BM with the grinding spiky punk edge charges full steam ahead.

The lyrics are dense and lurid to say the least but the guitars have a very distinctive shrill sound, rather like deranged bagpipes (which I’m sure Graal won’t mind me saying), and the drumming has a very insistent neo-primitive punk style. On some tracks the bass guitar has a leading role but that may be because it’s very prominent in the mix and its clear sound is a strong contrast with the acidic guitar tones. The true glory of Graal’s music is the bloodthirsty shouting vocals which relish whatever insanely barmy esoteric activity is the focus in each of the eleven songs on offer. Although Graal’s themes are steeped in pagan Irish mythology and occult topics, often emphasising their inherent gory, terror-filled tendencies, the music itself oddly appears industrial in its relentless machine-like rhythms and beats, corrosive grinding guitar tones and clear vocals. The song structures can be odd, allowing free rein for the guitars, bass and drums to be their maniac selves and the vocals to rant, but their very eccentric nature reinforces the punishing nature of the music.

For just over thirty minutes we’re steeped in a hellish suffocating world of gory war, stinking death and the strange rituals that feed a horrific cult worshipping death and power over others’ lives. While the images might fade after the music ends, the spiky sounds and delirious atmosphere of “Ocularchy” might stay with you, dormant perhaps during your waking hours, but when you’re asleep at night and your conscious defences are relaxed …

The album is due for release in mid to late September 2022 as a cassette.