Ilat Mahru (self-titled): sinister soundscapes of atmospheric lo-fi black metal immersion

Ilat Mahru, self-titled, United Kingdom, Death Prayer Records, limited edition cassette (2023)

Mystery horde Ilat Mahru’s debut release might be a modest one at 31 minutes but that half-hour is sure to make a deep impression on its audiences with gritty maelstrom guitar textures, a continuous layer of moaning demon voices and busy percussion. Though there are clear guitar riffs, they tend to be amorphous buzzy drone clouds of deep sinister nature. The phantom voices, raspy and rising out of the music and sinking back later, together with the droning guitar riff storm clouds remind me a little of past USBM acts Flaskavsae and Njiqahdda, and the thought has occurred to me that Ilat Mahru could be American though the front cover artwork of the self-titled cassette features the band’s name in cuneiform lettering.

Fittingly for this kind of stupendous atmospheric lo-fi BM / dark ambient soundscape immersion, the tracks on this release are long and winding, and are mostly instrumental though the voices may be conveying a message. Opening track “Engorging Sacred Twilight Venom” is a devastating storm of noisy guitar buzz, made even more sinister and hypnotic by a dark atmosphere that blurs the music’s edge. “Mystic Edge” is even more icy and bleak with the blizzard guitar music booming across harsh landscapes and the drums and ghost voices bulking up the noisy textures with their own brand of dream-like shadow menace. The remaining two tracks do not add anything new or change the music’s formula much – they maintain the recording’s distinct dark and malevolent sound universe with more mixes of droning guitars contrasting with actual guitar melodies while those demonic voices swirl around them. Final track “To Yearn, To Suffer” seems a little more blackened and industrial in its full-on metal noise, and the voices in the track wail more in agony and torment than out of rage or hostility.

Had this recording been at least several minutes longer, Ilat Mahru’s lyrical themes and immersive soundscape approach to music composition and song writing might have made this debut a mighty monster and a contender for black metal album of the year. As it is, the short length of the demo and the abrupt endings to songs might be frustrating for listeners keen on the band’s style of lo-fi immersion. The music really deserves to go on and on and on, enveloping listeners’ heads and taking them far, far down into a massive underground labyrinthine cavern system.



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