Tellurian Slaked Furnace by Lurker Of Chalice

Release date: March 1, 2020
Label: Nuclear War Now! Productions

Demo re-releases are nothing new. Something for the OG fans, collectors and musical historians, maybe given a bit of spit and polish to make up for less-than-ideal recording conditions – instant cult classic, right? Tellurian Slaked Furnace compiles the two demos released by Lurker Of Chalice, the mid-Leviathan project of Wrest (a.k.a. Jef Whitehead), in extremely limited numbers prior to the release of the project’s one and only album, but edits and reconstitutes them into a single, fluid work of depressive darkness and mostly instrumental miasma, bucking the trend and creating something that is more than just a collectible curiosity.

This material’s crowning achievement is that it fully embraces the violence and misery of all of Wrest’s work yet there is barely a trace of metal in here. There are outliers like ‘II’, a mesmerising vortex of martial snares and desperate, distorted howls that drag the listener on a scenic route down through the nine circles, but the plaintive ambient tones that frame that journey are what really makes up the core of the Furnace.

Much of the album’s mournful air comes from Wrest’s guitarwork, opting for sparse and echoing melodies that are more often than not packed by a deep, pulsing bass presence that bridges the gap between the jazzy dark ambience that has typically underpinned Leviathan, even at its most savage, and a more gothy post-punk influence that really shines through tracks like ‘IX’, especially at its triumphant conclusion that could have been ripped straight from a Sisters Of Mercy b-side.

There are rare occasions where the sometimes primitive experiments work against the record, like ‘VIII’ and its punctuation of morose dungeon synth with a sampled wolf howl that feels more camp than kvlt, but on the whole it’s the untethered nature of the record that gives it such power. It isn’t afraid to drop the atmospherics and lurch into muscular sludge workouts, or to mix clean melodies with swerving power-electronics and synths that evoke cheesy slasher flicks rather than snuff films. It’s a level of invention that could only come from this material being lifted from the demos of a side-project, a double-whammy of Wrest’s usual “do-what-the-fuck-thou-wilt” mindset.

For an album that could have been a cut-and-paste mishmash of two disparate releases, what Whitehead has instead delivered is an intensely personal work that is beautiful, chilling and heart-wrenchingly inked in sorrow, one whose story comes not from words or melody but rather from the atmosphere of overwhelming solitude that permeates it. He hasn’t sought to recreate the mercurial magic of Lurker Of Chalice’s debut but instead has given flesh and form to its blueprint; a misshapen archetype of the monster that would come to be, but it still has life, flesh and bone, as well as curiously magnetic presence. As both precursor and swansong to one of black metal’s most beloved, if short-lived entities, Tellurian Slaked Furnace serves a purpose and it serves it like a depressive, majestic titan.

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