Within the past decade, North America has seen a surge of incredible black metal acts that seem to both take inspiration from and defy their Scandinavian forefathers. From Weakling to Agalloch to Deafheaven to Liturgy, American black metal acts have drawn controversy and acclaim from fans and critics alike, and for entirely good reason. American black metal can scarcely be brought up nowadays without discussion of Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s so-called manifesto “Transcendental Black Metal,” a term he applies to his band Liturgy. We’ve all moved on a bit since then, as has black metal, while groups continue to innovate and change. One of those innovators is Canadian trio Thantifaxath, whose members remain anonymous. Thantifaxath released their demo in 2011 and have finally returned in 2014 with their debut album “Sacred White Noise,” a harrowing and complex journey into several different metallic styles.
While it is easy to label Thantifaxath as a black metal band, that is only the first layer to their sound. The band also incorporates avant-garde climaxes that wouldn’t seem out of place on a maudlin of the Well album. They’re as progressive as they are retrospective, looking back fondly on the more traditional black metal styles while also looking forward with respect to time signature changes and abrupt shifts in tone. “Sacred White Noise” represents sort of a bold statement in a scene dominated by blastbeats and emotive vocalizations. Not to say of course that those two factors don’t come into play; Thantifaxath just seek to remove the human element from the music. It sounds like it was carved from a marble slab of black metal formulas into a piece of work that has it all and more.
Thantifaxath make great use of drone, noise, atmosphere, and experimentation on this album, which makes this more than your run-of-the-mill black metal album. But, of course, this raises an important question: how long until experimentation with post-rock and drone doom and avant-garde becomes the norm for black metal and nothing sounds original anymore? Thankfully, Thantifaxath seek to answer this question with the music itself. The band is certainly not the first to experiment, but they do so in a way that feels familiar yet unforgettable. Plus, this album is a lot of fun to listen to. The more I listen, the more I want to try and unlock its mysteries.
Is “Sacred White Noise” a perfect record? No, of course not. And it may not even end up being my favorite black metal record of the year (Agalloch is putting out an album this month, in case you haven’t heard). But it is certainly enjoyable enough to warrant a few listens. Thantifaxath may be a difficult name to pronounce (I still haven’t figured that part out) but their music comes with so many twists and turns that even black metal decriers should find something to enjoy. It’s a heavy metal record that seeks to please prog-metal enthusiasts and corpsepaint-wearers alike. It’s just terrifying enough to be intriguing, but ear-friendly enough to please just about any heavy metal fan. It’s raw yet well produced, and the band members seem to know exactly what they’re doing, which is pretty much all I could ever want in a great metal record.
1. The Bright White Nothing At the End of the Tunnel
2. Where I End and the Hemlock Begins
3. Gasping in Darkness
4. Eternally Falling
5. Panic Becomes Despair
6. Lost in Static Between Worlds