A new project from Rob Fisk on the fledgling Breath Sun Bone Blood label he’s running alongside regular collaborator Yan Arexis, Night Beheaded blends the ritual doom of the former’s Common Eider, King Eider with the bleak subterranean black metal howls of the latter’s Cober Ord.
Most of the action here sounds as though it’s taking place several dilapidated rooms away, creating a haunted house atmosphere that slides between genuine horror and dreadful temptation with sinister ease. Fierce blasts of squalling guitar and screaming vocals carry through fractures in the architecture on the back of frigid swirls of ceremonial ambience – no single development holds for long, resulting in an intentionally discombobulating listening experience. The blast beats – they are there – rumble up from such cavernous depths as to mimic raging plumes of hellfire.
When things get closer – take the supremely creepy “Swords of Ash” – the effect is startlingly claustrophobic, bringing a prickly heat to the skin before lifting with a suddenness that leaves you shivering in a void of acrid air; and yet you are forever drawn on, and in. Opening gently with the pluck of a lone guitar forming footsteps on uncertain ground, “Milk of the Wild” soon sucks you over the threshold with back-breaking force. Gnashed vocals swirl amid tremolo squeal and form a vortex as the walls close in – you feel the light drop out and the air pressure rise only for “Feral Spirits” yank open the curtains again.
In truth, this second track plays an almost identical trick to the opener in the way it descends, albeit this time with enough fury to battle off the brief respite that befalls it three quarters of the way through. The effect is to solidify the sense this is more than just a nightmare – if you woke up from “Milk of the Wild” then “Feral Spirits” ensures you’re well aware it’s not quite that simple. You do not belong here and the door is locked behind you.
By the time you reach the relative calm of the title track, having passed through the eye of the storm with “Swords of Ash” and been flayed alive by “Inverted Rome,” the feeling is not one of relief but exhausted acceptance. A funereal organ drones as disembodied growls skirt the scene like so many drooling hyenas. The wait is over; you have reached your final destination.