Portuguese black metal avant-garde outfit Monte Penumbra has finally returned after eight years of hiatus. The sophomore release ‘As Blades in the Firmament‘ was released on March 26 2021. Formed in 2012 by W.uR (vocals, guitars, and bass) who pushes his craft into the experimental avant-garde of modern dissonance. Monte Penumbra‘s debut album ‘Heirloom of Sullen Fall‘ set a bedrock of the band’s musical craft where it established its own sonic identity. On the newest endeavor, the Portuguese-based musician merges the oddities of avant-gardism and the technique of third-wave black metal. Working side by side with drummer Bjarni Einarsson (Almyrkvi, Sinmara, and Slidhr) has resulted in a flawless collaboration that turned the sound of the album into an approach similar to the Icelandic style of black metal.
Monte Penumbra’s song structure demonstrates a range of dissonance where the songs fit well into a hypnotic kind of avant-garde. Needless to say that the songs infuse traditional tremolo pickings and dense riffing to create some kind of a claustrophobic atmosphere. The album opener ‘Black Mould on Rye Grass‘ showcases drum transitions that are far removed from black metal acts today. With these abrupt transitions the slow eerie instrumentation becomes centered in the background.
In between the organic performance of the drums and the jarring guitars, the vocals unfolds peculiar chanting. The following track ‘To Anoint the Dead‘ provides a wide variety of vocalization styles that shares some similarities to the Norwegian black metal band Mayhem. While there are many fast blistering sections in each of the six tracks, Monte Penumbra intertwines sonic embellishments that often enhance the quality of the music. Mixing the tonal structures with dissonance is another remarkable element of the song structure.
The track ‘As Blades in the Firmament’ focuses on the frequent use of dissonance whilst the riffing technique add to the songs’ complexity. These elaborated touches give the music a sophisticated tone. The songwriting here is akin to bands such as Svartidaudi. The fine drumming skills of Bjarni Einarsson boast some great dynamics with his abrupt shifts from mid pacing to blast beats, boosting the tempo to lighting speed. W.uR’s unique riffing palette adds a strong tonality to the songs. The subtle shifts in the drum pacing are often accompanied by pitch black tremolos. Although the melodies are rare, there are moments when the bass guitar adds a humming buzz. For example, ‘Foreboding in Tidal Breaths‘ begins with atonal tremolos that contrast with the rhythmic pounding of the drums. Besides the relentless aggression of the music, the low vocal pitches add another element to the composition.
The eerie intro of the guitars on ‘Of a Different Fire‘ creates a complex texture. ‘As Blades in the Firmament‘ is a dark definition of avant-garde black metal, seamlessly conveying a spectrum of disordered riffs. Within its run of forty-two minutes, you are unlikely to have a peaceful moment because the songs are hyperactive and chaotically disturbing. Despite the varied tones of the guitars and the pounding drums the sophomore deals with frequent tempo changes. The monochromatic disharmony of the instrumentation gives it a jarring effect.
Clocking at eleven minutes the final track ‘Trephining the Severed Head of the Oracle‘ is amongst the fastest tracks where the drums ignite at full velocity. Regardless of its intensity and the chaotic tone of the swirling riffs the drums fluctuate from mid pacing tempo to rapid pace. On their sophomore effort Monte Penumbra presents a flawless chemistry between the two musicians. Recommended for fans of Deathspell Omega and Svartidaudi.
Release Date: March 26th, 2021
Label: End All Life Productions / Orations
- Black Mould on Rye Grass
- To Anoint the Dead
- as Blades in the Firmament
- Foreboding in Tidal Breaths
- Of a Different Fire
- Trephining the Severed Head of the Oracle