This is a big deal for me. Thantifaxath are one of my favorite bands. With only one EP and album to their name up to this point, they have managed to captivate me as a listener with their blend of black metal and post-rock alongside a myriad of ambient and progressive tendencies. I get something from their music that I get from nowhere else: a special blend of catharsis, melody and beauty. For music that often sounds like aural anxiety and panic, I find it relaxing and fulfilling. Needless to say, when I heard about this Void Masquerading As Matter ‘EP’ (this thing may be four tracks, but still hovers around the 40-minute mark), I was cautiously optimistic and excited. How can they top their debut album, Sacred White Noise? How silly I was to doubt the Toronto trio.
Thantifaxath achieve the paradox of working within the same comfortable boundaries they had before while simultaneously shattering those boundaries by fine-tuning every single detail of their music. This is evident in the very first track, “Ocean of Screaming Spheres”. The opening riff is speedy, ebbing and pulsing through what we soon find out is simply the background of this engulfing soundscape. After several seconds, bass and drums join and the guitar makes a ear-splitting, massive jump to the foreground. This introduction plays out similarly to the one in “Where I End and the Hemlock Begins” from Sacred White Noise. Vocals eventually join in, ever raspy, tormented and barely coherent. The song dances through different speeds and densities, utilizing scales and odd timing to create feelings of disorientation. The track’s end is uncomfortable. It’s a wall of dissonant guitar that gets progressively louder and louder until, just before you can’t take it anymore, it ends abruptly and catapults you into deafening silence before the next track. It’s as if you walked into a tangible wall of static in a broken television set, the sights and sounds eroding away at your mental well-being. It’s much more cathartic than frustrating, and just the first moment on this EP where the music psychologically toys with you.
“Self Devouring Womb” is a different beast entirely. It starts genuinely slowly, legato guitar notes moaning in the mix, drums becoming increasingly quick and rhythmic, about as traditionally black metal as Thantifaxath get. This song has a unique brand of menacing tension that the first track didn’t, even if the elements of composed music are indeed similar. This goes to show that, even within the same style and genre of music, artists can still bend and twist the sound to create wildly different feelings and moods. There’s also a catchiness to the harmonized guitar and bass motifs that repeat throughout, though with variances in tone and intensity. “Self Devouring Womb” breaks in the middle for an instrumental section filled with a sea of strings, ambient noise and echoes. All notes are played and repeated, descending in their respective scales which makes you feel like you’re falling helplessly. The void has its grip on you now, and there’s no escaping.
A smooth transition into the third track, “Cursed Numbers”, quickly, perhaps unsurprisingly at this point, turns chaotic. The music builds to glitchy, math rock passages that sound like hundreds of beeping machines malfunctioning simultaneously. Screams paint a picture of torture and panic before being silenced by a heavily distorted, almost robotic, commanding voice that burrows into your head. The void speaks and is displeased with your presence. After a short intermission, the wall of sound returns more oppressive than ever. Waves and waves of guitar wash over you. The void corrupts you from within.
The last track, “Void Masquerading as Matter”, is a release from the void’s prison and somewhat of a callback to the band’s self-titled EP and the last track on it, “The Madness into Which All Things Flow”. Angelic voices sing unbounded which, in comparison to the solid half-hour gauntlet of noise and panic that preceded this track, is an act of benevolence. The harmony of the voices gently cradle, but they soon grow restless and impatient. The choir eventually contorts into pained shrieks and banshee-like yelps as if the voices beyond the void beckon for your return. Or perhaps they are the voices of those still trapped within that void. Regardless, they haunt well past the last second of the song’s playtime. If you were smart enough to have the repeat button on your music player engaged like me, the EP simply starts from the beginning again, creating a loop of eternal torment and catharsis.
If you hadn’t guessed by now, Void Masquerading As Matter is an experience. I understand that’s a cheesy, almost lazy way to describe music sometimes, but that cliché is maximally true here. This EP is best heard with headphones and played as loud as you can stand it in order for you to become saturated in its dissonance. There is great beauty in this disorder and for me, it’s unparalleled. Thantifaxath have crafted music that is capable of unrelenting impenetrability and apocalyptic, unearthly calm. It crushes just as much as it caresses, never letting one feeling stay too long or overwhelm the other. This project isn’t something I would describe as fun, but there is entertainment and fulfillment as a listener in going through this multiple times in a row to discover and bask in the myriad of textures this music has to offer.
If you’re expecting me to point my finger at any faults as I usually do at the end of my reviews, I’m going to disappoint you. The reality is that this music doesn’t really have any. Everything was so calculated here from the length of individual passages to the crisp mix, all in service to the greater piece of art that is the sum of its parts. This is the apex of abrasion and a dissonant delight. My admittedly high expectations for this EP were uprooted and flung into the stratosphere by Thantifaxath with this effort. This music is enthralling, hypnotic and suspenseful. It’s… perfect. And a perfect effort deserves a perfect score. As music, Void Masquerading as Matter is as untouchable as the eponymous void it creates.
Notable Tracks: “Oceans of Screaming Spheres”; “Cursed Numbers”; but really all of them if I’m being honest
FFO: Harakiri for the Sky, Altar of Plagues, Darkspace
Pre-order Void Masquerading As Matter through Bandcamp. Thantifaxath are nowhere to be found on social media, but you can follow their record company Dark Descent Records on Facebook and Bandcamp for news on all of their releases past, present and future!