Founded in 2002, Icelandic black metallers Svartidauði have produced three demos and one split album. Through time, the musical style of the band has followed the familiar path of advancing from a more primal place to the technically and innovative style of their first LP, Flesh Cathedral, which shall forever be recounted as a bone-shattering debut.

Taking their queues from such monumental bands as Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord, Svartidauði launches listeners into an abyss of reverberating guitars, mind-breaking drums that hammer on and on, and vocals that crawl between tortured rasps and brooding, growling chants by bass player and vocalist Sturla Viðar.

“Sterile Seeds” fades in uneventfully, as if accidentally channeled on some telepathic frequency. Sturla growls, and his voice reverberates as though from within a large chamber. The guitars peak and then pause, at which point booming drums launch the composition into a tremolo-picking inferno of heresy, while white-knuckled drummer Magnús plays on with extreme complexity.

I am a sucker for bass tone — the tone of Celtic Frost’s Monotheist was the sole reason I switched to the instrument — and the tone of Sturla’s bass on this record is gritty and heavy, just the way it should be. This is particularly worthy of note for the simple fact that there exists a large amount of black metal albums on which the bass has no voice or easily notable presence. The track closes with a rather psychedelic soundscape, a unique trend that weaves throughout the record.

“The Earth is covered in ash and our lungs have filled with worms. The dead eyes close as the disgusting light flickers at the withering horizon.” Sturla prophetically tells the story of a dying world with nothing to save us from its demise. The lyrics portray horrors from every direction and dimension.

“Cross the borders of nightmares. Venture into the sphere of horrors and gaze upon the distorted reflection of the immense nothingness of the universe.” Thus begins “The Perpetual Nothing,” the second track of only four on the album. Again, we hear the bass guitar’s death rattle as Svartidauði marches on into said sphere of horrors. The senses are again assaulted with dark, powerful walls of guitars that flow over hard-hitting drum work.

Finally, fading into the album’s title track, “Flesh Cathedral,” we again hear a short, psychedelic soundscape. With vocals growling in the distance, the composition begins to build, heavier and still heavier until exploding into a crescendo. Midway through, a powerful new musical thought emerges, again building upon itself and taking the listener on a journey though emptiness. Later, a rattling bass once again, and then militant, skull-crushing drums before we launch into the 18-minute odyssey “Psychoactive Sacraments.”

Booming blast beats guide you into a sermon of heresy and psychoactive reflection on this track. Sturla Viðar leaves the listener with the question, “What monstrous horrors lie buried beneath the cavernous depths of your psyche?” providing a powerful end to a fantastic album, and Svartidauði fades out into the same abyss from which they emerged.

A black metal breakthrough, Flesh Cathedral is now available for purchase in the US via Daemon Worship Productions.

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