If Black Metal’s 20-year inch away from overt murder has taught us anything, it’s that even “undesirable” art isn’t above evolution. Sure, American Black Metal gods Avichi still harness the genre’s traditional grindcore/hardcore underpinnings and piercing yowl, kicking up a menacing energy worthy of the dark thrones they inhabit. But, on The Devil’s Fractal, they spare the lo-fi tapeiness that often alienates more traditional metal acolytes. What’s left is a towering wall of (relatively) approachable anarchy, a Black Metal record that remains pure without hiding behind willful, nuance-free aggression.
Complex, heartfelt odes to our dark lord Satan, the album’s seven epic cuts imagine the bowels of Earth and Hell intermingling through the eyes of the ultimate aggressor. The first riffs of opener “Sermon on the Mount” offer a descending blues scale, abused and ruined before being cast into the abyss. From there, it’s clear that old rules don’t apply: “This is my kingdom. Here my will shall be done, as in hell.”
Seething with the epic riffage of mastermind (and Nachtmystium guitarist) Andrew Markuszewski, songs like “I Am the Adversary” and “Tabernacle of Perdition” amp up the aggression, as pained screams are enveloped over and over by blackened guitars. On “Kaivalva Of The Black Magician,” the band takes it back to the root, sinking a pained, goblin-y cry into thick layers of seething distortion. The an unholy combination of doom, drone and post-rock rear their unsavory heads on the album’s closing suite (“The Devil’s Fractal Pt 1 and 2″), heightening rather than hindering their grand, dramatic gestures. It’s the incorporation of these elements that really marks the genre’s evolution, while proving that Markuszewski’s corpse paint is layered as thick as ever.