Præternatura “Hideous Mirrored Visage” review


Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally, understanding the logical connection between ideas. Applying this to a band like Præternatura seems to be a tough task;  this is a band that values quality over quantity, a noble trait as I see it. This is unlike many other bands that can be put into the same category. Not that three full-length albums in 3 years is little, don’t get me wrong, but the amount of sound is tremendous.

Drawing on lighter styles, this gives the album a great balance between ugliness and beauty. Perhaps the best comparison would be to avant-garde metal, but this certainly doesn’t sound like a band of this genre. Many sections are hypnotic, eventually picking up steam and building up, only to wind back down again. The picturesque drone on “Reflecting / Refracting” wholly captures the encompassing vibe they’re going for. With only three of the seven songs being under the ten-minute mark (with two songs just falling short of nine minutes), leaving room for an atmosphere to develop was a great idea.

This is a vast, destructive, powerfully heavy music. The riffs brim with menace and pounds relentlessly, changing over and over for longer than most bands would dare to play with, creating an almost hypnotic tension. The vocals are torn from the throat – a harsh, abrasive style that is more than growl. And to top it off, Præternatura isn’t afraid to rip out some repetitive, chaotic riffs. This is high-class stuff.

Consisting of seven tracks spanning over one hour, the scale is fully set to ‘vast’ for the whole of this release. Whether it is the spiked tone with a hint of bass which leads for most of the lugubrious “Demonflesh” or the foggy, caustic feel leading the Aevangelist-esque drone of “Veil of Dead Stars”, you, the listener, will forever have a colourful palette to digest when listening to the amplitude of “Hideous Mirrored Visage”.

Præternatura sound has a crunchy edge which is not too sharp but just soft enough to give an impression of guitars melting into thick hot noise lava that flows with the boiling percussion.

The album plays like a soundtrack to an unspeakably nightmare with its own scenery, sound effects, music and more besides. All that’s needed is the movie canvas; even the idea for the plot is supplied by the title tracks. I think that the sound recordings put the listener in the right frame of fear before the music even starts, and synthesiser or digitally created effects play an important role in establishing the album’s mood and atmosphere. Once the music gets going, it drags the listener on a ride straight to Hell: drums and guitars roar continuously. As the album progresses, the music changes into something more flowing and efficient, allowing the alien-like element to emerge.

The vocals suit this kind of horror-induced death / black metal: swamp-reptile tones that swallow much of the lyrics and growls with some sort of echo added to give even more coldness effect to the singing.

The album can be a weary experience and maybe some tracks here and there could have been edited for length. The music is firm and layered but with plenty of energy, all focused on creating a huge universe of unimaginable hostility.

I think it takes a lot of nerve to think of a visual depiction of this music.

Avant-garde, experimental and almost disagreeable, Matron Thorn has written here something that draws the walls of materiality with the most horrific dreams of the listener and fills the intracranial void with unimaginable darkness. Though its musical structure inhabits both the death and black metal species, I’d almost hesitate to limit “Hideous Mirrored Visage” to either category. Even the art-work (made by Kyysirppi) will haunt you for months to come. The fragmented, dissonant depth of the music requires time to truly acclimate yourself.

Those who have experienced Thorn’s more mythic black metal act, Benighted in Sodom will be well aware of how he thrives on atmosphere, and this record is no exception. Glimpses of madness and spectral sounds enhance the composition, and the riffs are crafted in this vortex of downtempo that you’d expect out of doom-metal bands. The guitar tone pierces through the darkness, the atonal guitar progressions toss along like serpents and insects in the soil, devouring one another. There is no sense of warmth here, no assertive emotion and no escape. This is music that gave up on life a long time ago and now revels in its plain madness. Songs will both vibrate and burst along for periods of up to 9-10 minutes, but even though the sound-set of the guitar, the guitar tones are united throughout, I always felt like is something new around the corner, a fresh existential thought to burden my existence.


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