2013 : Black Horizons
Format : Cassette
L’Acephale are one of those bands that I try to get my hands on everything they release, but seem to never get around to writing about. Well, that’s pretty much everyone as of late, but damn it I’m writing about this little gem. Hailing from Portland, Oregon (but please, enough with the “Cascadian Black Metal” tag, not all of these guys are hippies), and birthed in 2002 primarily as a solo project of frontman Set Sothis Nox La (Order Of The Vulture / Hail) but soon developed into a full-fledged band, including Markus Wolff of Waldteufel and Blood Axis. As of this writing, they’ve released two full-length albums plus a handful of splits and demos, all worthy of tracking down, though some are probably impossible at this point. This tape itself, to quote the insert, “were written for various purposes and have either languished in Crypts or released on out of print formats”.
The band incorporates elements of folk, industrial and even ambient, without capitalizing one of those adjectives and slapping “Metal” on the end. There’s a huge difference. You can definitely blaze new trails but still stay true to the essence of Black Metal, and on these two originals as well as three covers, that’s exactly what they do. The tape begins with a cover of Emperor’s “Ye Entrancemperium”. With the addition of more bombastic percussion, a few samples, more audible bass, and a little more “sickness” to the vocals, they stick pretty close to the original. If you’re familiar with “Anthem to the Welkin At Dusk”, you will definitely recognize it. Next is an original, “Sleep Is The Enemy”. This one is rife with doomish atmosphere, a ticking clock, marching guitars and whispered vocals before catching you completely off guard and plunging into pure chaos and back again.
The B side continues with a cover of Darkthone’s “As Flittermice As Satans Spy”. The band manages to give this one a folkish reworking that somehow seems to sound even more sinister than the original. It’s one of my favorites on the tape and goes back to Set’s first black metal project, Hexenhammer. This is followed by another ominous original, “Passing Into Sleep”. Again, oppressive atmosphere is the key, with operatic samples, droning black ambiance punctuated with piano and plodding percussion as well as a vocal sample from a Jewish lament for the dead. This track was featured in the independent film “Black Mass Rising” as well as on the 3xLP soundtrack. Closing out the tape is a cover of Current 93’s “Allons Vior Si La Rose (Let Us Go To The Rose)”. Folkish guitars and rasping vocals, as far as it is from the original, another of my favorites and over much too soon.
In an age when were bombarded with so much of everything, it’s easy to let a band like L’Acephale slip under the radar. But that’s why I’m here, to make sure you don’t. This is candlelight music, with an aura so dark it’s likely to steal the light from the room. Limited to just 200 copies that includes a beautiful silver ink on black j-card and insert. This is one of a few Black Horizons releases I own, and I’ve been impressed with every one. The attention to detail is amazing, without getting gimmicky to overcompensate for bad music. Order it directly from them here.