Israthoum - Channeling Death and Devil - (7.5/10)
Published on November 3, 2017
It seems that relocating to Holland has been a somewhat fashionable lifestyle change within the black metal community. Israthoum made the move in 1998, from Portugal, and changed their name in the process, but didn’t capitalize on this activity until 2008, with a debut, Monument of Brimstone. While that album was serviceable Enslaved/Gorgoroth worship, the follow-up, Black Poison and Shared Wounds, showed how easy it was to distance oneself from bands that could deliver the goods within the same field. However, Israthoum’s third album, Channeling Death and Devil, shows this Portuguese-Dutch collective has been paying attention to recent developments within Holland, not only reflecting some of the more top-tier releases within those borders but also keeping the Norwegian style a bit more interesting and competitive, to go along with releases from Enepsigos, Doedsvangr, Unholy Crucifix, and Valgaldr.
This doesn’t necessarily mean Israthoum can run with the big dogs, but they are certainly trying to catch up. Right away, it’s evident that the band has overturned something particularly nasty in their songwriting graveyard, which immediately calls to mind Satyricon’s Dark Medieval Times (and later, Nemesis Divina), the distortion especially hazy and thick, which emphasizes the large riffs and makes the soupy mess all the murkier and claustrophobic in its trebly hellfire.
Other influences crop us well, such as Cult of Fire, in the ritualistic, occult overtones of grimness, supported by chanting and rhythmic strumming that, in their violent pulsations, could indeed allow oneself to submit to select passages from the Gospel of Luke. Right next door to this is something far dirtier, approaching war metal territory in its abstract chaos and refusal to form (recalling Unholy Crucifix), which interestingly breaks way into a traditional arrangement but one that stills packs enough venom to make even an atrophied snake handler recoil in fright.
Some other curiosities develop too, such as “Drudges of Ruination” and “Bleak Fulgency,” which as alluded to earlier, show off similarities to forward-thinking Wederganger, and the vocal arrangements as a whole tend to see a good deal of variety and experimentation, as though the album overall can’t commit to a single vision. In this case, Israthoum has scored major points, for it can be quite difficult to piece together all the elements on the album as wholly representative of anything distinct, which makes transitions impactful and the overall flow pleasantly erratic.
Who knows if this was intentional, if perhaps the band simply threw all these ingredients into a witch’s cauldron and scooped out whatever was floating on the surface. Strangely, then, in the album’s more direct, intentional moments, Israthoum still manages to impress with riffs that hit considerably hard, which means the band has honed in on something concrete after all. It’s almost a miracle all this works, but even more miraculous would be consistency across a career; at this stage in the game, it might seem late for Israthoum, but at their relatively slow pace it’s a great sign.