Castrensis - Hierarchies - (8/10)
Published on December 25, 2015
Home-base to some of the most extreme brutality this side of Unit 731, Sevared Records picked up and headed to Denmark on a recent caving expedition. Their objective: to plumb the depths and further augment the darkness of an already toothsome and bioluminescent roster. What they found, lurking in the pitch, feasting on the snared cadavers of intrepid black metal acts, was Hierarchies, the ravenous full-length debut from Castrensis.
Following up their aptly titled 2011 demo Brutal Discipline, this Danish quintet went full nocturnal on their first LP excursion, shunning all manner of warmth and comfort in favor of pummeling atonality and a malformed will to explore and embrace the more forbidding reaches of the subgenre.
The sound and skin of Hierarchies is bleak and jarring, oppressively so, with its nightmare-inducing charms intensified all the more by the ferocious and predatory nature of the song-writing. “War of Transcendence” bursts open with a barrage of finger-splitting riffs and blasting drums; the sensation feels off-kilter, but the lure of guttural vocals and slamming grooves pull things back in place when all seems lost and frantic, which it often does. Thankfully, tracks like “Framed Living Bust” and “Cannibalistic Demiurge” utilize pinch harmonic cameos to keep the senses sharp against an otherwise diseased and maddening backdrop.
In contrast to their demo, Hierarchies works heavily with dissonance and an atonal soundscape, likewise staying true to their penchant for bone-displacing grooves and voracious serpentine riffs. While “Abhorrent Reciprocity” serves as a strong example of such dynamics, the best is found on “Embodiment of Deception,” a stark and fractured display of debilitating musicianship that not only harkens to Kiwi destroyers Ulcerate, but likewise to the desolate direction Castrensis is no doubt wandering.
The year has coughed up heavier, more anguished records, but few if any have managed to couple both with an atmosphere so distinctly pitiless, harsh, and bred for an underground takeover. Flat-out Shellian in its ability to stitch the broken and torn into something altogether hulking, sentient, and terrifying.