Teitanblood’s The Baneful Choir really shows you that it is possible to create an original piece of death metal work in a landscape dominated by clones and rehashes. This album is frenetically visceral, unrelenting, and full of atmosphere. That is not to say the album does not feature moments of groove and some melodic content but the most apparent quality of this album is its aural texture. The Baneful Choir is akin to death metal acts such as Portal, The Chasm, Necros Christos, Beherit, Dead Congregation and the like. It’s is murky as fuck and cavernous, to say the least. If any album sounded like it was emanating out of a black hole, this is the one (well them and Darkspace but let’s not go there).
Although the keywords above may not indicate it, this album starts off with a death/doom style riff, following creepy soundscapes. This part of the album draws you in unsuspectingly. At first impression you might think you are in for a laid back, groovy metal experience, that is until the third track (“Leprous Fire”) pulls your tongue out through your butthole. From then on this album goes from one face fuck to the next, not even giving you time to catch your breath before the beating returns. The album is awash with feedback and immense riffs and it feels like the soundtrack for an off-world prison planet (not the Alex Jones one but similar). An occasional respite will come in the form of nightmarish filler ambience and although the energy diminishes somewhat, the sense of dread does not.
The lead guitar in The Baneful Choir is surprisingly palatable. It has more aural comparison with traditional heavy metal solos than it does with death metal legends such as Trey Azagthoth or Jon Levasseur (I may be setting up too much of a binary here but for the sake of comparison it helps). Although those are two of my favourite lead players in death metal, I appreciate the approach Teitanblood has taken to lead writing on this album. In a release that oozes aggression, the leads are almost a counterpoint to the statement the rhythm section is trying to make. The leads soar in epic fashion over the music offering some relief from the unending pulverisation that is listening to this album. This can be heard most obviously at around the 45-minute mark where the album breaks into a ‘Van Halen-esque’ shred fest. There are moments of more traditional sounding death metal leads but these melodic ones stand out the most. Lead guitars aside, the instrumentals on this album are phenomenal, with the drumming probably taking the top spot on that list. Vocally you can’t really hear much of what is going on, though this is clearly the stylistic intention. I do love the way The Baneful Choir is mixed: a shimmer of horrific, riff-outlined distortion; however, it does make it difficult to critique the technical prowess of the vocalist. Let’s just say he does the job.
Although the mixing on this album is murky, the overall quality of the production is extremely warm and enveloping. Often when bands go for a lo-fi/raw mix it ends up sacrificing some of its overall tonal quality to achieve it. This record does not. Though it’s brutal and frenzied, this album somehow manages to be inviting. Much in the same way the leads are an antithesis to the rhythm at times, the mixing of this album has both elements of light and dark. And beyond the album being horrifying and nightmarish, it is also hypnotic and psychedelic. These elements work in conjunction to draw you in and spit you out all in one go, only to repeat the process a moment later.
It is hard to pick out a single moment on this album as a highlight as the whole experience is inextricably linked to the flow of the album. The Baneful Choir has it all: ambience, face pounding tech death, groovy death doom riffs, psychedelia, and headbanging OSDM sections, all compiled into a cohesive piece of art. As almost always with releases of this quality I would recommend setting aside an hour of your time and listening to this without interruptions. You will not be sorry.