The Committee - Memorandum Occultus - (9.5/10)
Published on June 3, 2017
Earlier this year I glibly referred to Obitus’ new album, Slaves to the Vast Machine, as “totalitarian black metal art,” a sentiment that touches on the Orwellian and Huxleyan themes the band focuses on with lethal certainty. Rather interestingly (and ironically), then, I’m presented with an album that seems to be the antithesis to any sort of ideological or borderline separatist mentality as outlined therewith, which in some remarkably predestined sort of manner might resemble a springboard to extremity instead. The Committee’s sophomore album, Memorandum Occultus, could indeed be interpreted as an armchair philosophical call to arms, pointing fingers and firing warning shots in matters regarding governmental complacency and religious brainwashing, but it claims to never take a side because, you know, politics and black metal should never mix.
And that’s okay by me. The Committee has seen its vision through without resorting to outright sensationalism, and the potential neutrality of its “message” couldn’t be filtered more appropriately than through a form of black metal that has deep guttural overtones and throbbing, mid-paced rhythms; the type of deliberate, methodical precision in pacing that isn’t defined by extremes but by a slow and steady, steely resolve that can stand up to any shift in fads and fashions over the years. The Committee has rather slowly built up to this point as well, and it’s the band’s origins as a doom outfit that helps characterize their sound today. While some vestiges of the early days do prevail it’s mostly in how integrated the band has made the approach, how reliant it is to dial back the speed, and strangely enough, to focus on the percussive element to such an extent that its dubious simplicity offers many highlights and climactic occasions throughout the album.
It’s an album with a twin-guitar, melody-driven narrative that lends a borderline melodeath quality; its attritional melodic slogging almost seems arduous as it carves a path through the air, sometimes the pacing steeped too much in a pounding double bass slough, until once more the light breaks through the clouds to ease the burden. Much of the pain, too, is self-inflicted, but the band does a marvelous job accentuating how effortless it is to overcome these difficulties and slip into an unhindered, sinuous groove more befitting of a freethinking mind. It’s this interplay that truly sheds light on what exactly The Committee has intended and achieved (beautifully) with the album, how through subjugation and automatic, reflexive thinking we subdue our own minds rather than actively pursue unprejudiced, self-awakening endeavors.
The riffs, although plentiful, are still repetitive and protracted in just the right places, as if to accentuate that previous point further, i.e. to give the allusion of simplicity, of contentment, when in reality the band is actually presenting a challenge. Albums like this, which initially seem formulaic and straightforward, but actually expand cerebrally to satisfy apparently unforeseen crevices end up staying with us the longest, which as well lends more strength to its themes. The beauty of all this, of course, is that nothing is hidden but presented in plain sight; everything here has been done before, the melodic, rumbling riffs perhaps evocative of Mgła or Aeternus of a past era, ready to be discovered by the discerning ear and dissected by equally receptive minds. Namedropping the best in the business here doesn’t just demonstrate the caliber of The Committee‘s abilities but also tells other likeminded bands to step up their game.