Album art for Naked Swords Into the Wombs of the Enemy by De Magia Veterum.

Album Review: De Magia Veterum – Naked Swords Into the Wombs of the Enemy

Evoking a sound that listeners can recognize as “evil” is black metal’s crowning achievement. The genre’s early (and continued) ties to Satanic themes help, of course, but it is the sound (the scales, the notes, the use of dissonance, et cetera) of black metal that causes the mind to make the imaginative leap from simple music to full-blown apocalyptic soundtrack.

Naked Swords Into the Wombs of the Enemy by De Magia Veterum, one of the many brainchildren of prolific Dutch musician Mories, is as much a drone album as an impressive avantgarde black metal album, yet it maintains a singular vision in harnessing the latter’s raw, primal force and arresting it to a suffocating gothic atmosphere. With Naked, I daresay there hasn’t been quite a journey to hell like this one since Virgil accompanied Dante in Alighieri’s Inferno.

Imagine a horde of imps stumbling upon an orchestra, and you’ll have an idea of the ensuing chaos that begins with “Trumpeteering the Sulphur Lakes,” which sets the malevolent tone and blistering speed for the rest of the album. Production-wise, the forefront of the mix swells with layers of hellish organs that are, at times, indistinguishable from the guitars, which whirl like dervishes in the background. We’ve all heard walls of sound in our metal before, but tracks like “Terebinths of Mamre” blast with the heat of a pressurized cauldron, its fell steam generated by the devil’s own furnace. Frequent, sometimes even abrupt key changes on tracks like “Quench My Thirst With Night” never let you settle into any given riff, even against a constant dirge of blast beats. The vocals are every bit as deranged as the music, shifting from operatic singing to hoarse screams to even what I’d describe as spoken word. Every instrument here works together to form an unstoppable wall of blackened noise that can steal your breath away.

I feel like to try and find more common musical aspects like “dynamics” and “groove” would undermine what Naked Swords Into the Wombs of the Enemy does best, which is to create the most unnerving atmosphere the imagination can muster. Still, it has an air of perverse majesty about it, much in the way that Henry the VIII could still be referred to as “majesty” as he lopped off the heads of his wives. And like that king of old, De Magia Veterum wields a great and terrible power that will positively rule you.

I failed, I cried, but I’m not a bad dad.

I’m writing this down in the event that I forget it, not because I want to remember it, but because I might need to remind myself that it happened at all.

I failed — again — at getting Gorgonna to go back to sleep. To our dismay, she had been waking up several times during the night all week long. Tonight’s was the worst yet — a 3 AM pealing scream that undid the one-hour spell of sleep I’d been under since the last time she’d woken up. But her cries were not just the usual wordless wailing — they had a want behind them, a desire. And my failure to grant her that desire is what broke me.

Oh, I broke all right. I unleashed a monsoon from my eyes tonight. My wife, bless this woman who has chosen to spend her life with such a neurotic, confidence-lacking man-child, is out on the couch with Gorgonna under what I hope is a million blankets because damn, is it cold for California right now. And I’m here, snuggled under the covers in our queen-sized bed, the cats curled up next to my hips and ankles, the soft glow of the WordPress window the only light around. Find someone who’d do for you what my wife does for me, and never let them go, man.

You see, “Momma” is ultimately what Gorgonna wanted, although that isn’t what got me a-weepin’. I’m used to her choosing Mom’s lap over mine, Mom’s soft embrace over my bony-armed wrap. I’m probably like hugging a thornbush, so I can’t blame her there. No, what got my tear ducts working overtime was Gorgonna’s cries for one very specific thing:

“Go-go.” Goldfish. Fucking Pepperidge Farms Goldfish.

These are her special snack that are, admittedly, not that special since she gets them several times a day. Goldfish became her first outward sign of brand loyalty, as she would prefer them over other, more healthy snacks. She could pick out the few crackers nestled at the bottom of her snack cup, the ones hidden beneath a veritable mountain of whole oat, heart disease-preventing Cheerios. That’s dedication.

“That” is also what caused me to bawl my eyes out at 3 AM. I’m not exactly sure why it brought out such an intense reaction, but I just kept imagining Finn’s face on that white and orange box as the sole cause of my problem tonight. How was I supposed to give Gorgonna what she wanted? I already have enough of a moral dilemma feeding her goldfish during the day — the fuck was I supposed to do about her wanting them at night? Cry, apparently.

I don’t think it was exactly the right thing to do, but it’s what happened. That’s a recurring theme here at Mostly Metal Dad, the whole “I know this is how things are supposed to work, but here’s how they’re going down tonight.” From feeding to sleeping to teaching her how to brush her teeth, the daily acts of child-like information rarely go the way they’re supposed to. And I guess sometimes that wears on me.

I need to remember failure. Because what I’m identifying isn’t really failure, more trial and error. But because my mind keeps labeling it that way (the way I keep labeling Mortichnia black metal when they’re really more post-black metal (oh, yay, a metal reference!!)), I may as well call it as I see it. So, yeah. Failure.

Failing sucks, but it will happen a lot more before I’m ready to feel comfortable about it. I may have some rough, stormy nights like this one, while others will be smooth sailing. At the end of the day (or night, as it’s now almost 4:30), the most I can do is remember the sweet, supportive wife I have and the daughter who, despite having some outlandish wants that I know are only just beginning, deserves everything wholesome and good in this world, and even some bad, like goddamn Pepperidge Farm fucking Goldfish.

I would try to turn water into wine and fish into bread to give her what she wants. Maybe I should turn Goldfish into whole wheat multi-grain toast.

Sweet Release: Sunless – Urraca (2/24)

Technical death metal rarely grabs me the way other genres do. Maybe I just feel like bands are only capable of following two trajectories: One, where every song devolves into an incomprehensibly obnoxious shred-fest, and… okay, one trajectory.

But apparently tech death has a lesser known route, at least among the roads I travel. It’s one that leads me into a bright and glorious future where tech death and I ride off into the sunset together… except this is where the metaphor turns to shit because I’m talking about a band named Sunless.

Album art for Urraca by Sunless.

I think this Twin Cities tech death trio appeals to me because they have little of the typical razzle-dazzle charm I’m used to hearing. The two tracks I’ve heard off the upcoming Urraca sound dirty, like they’ve just been pulled up from the vegetable garden, and goddamn they’re good enough to eat, as is. They have this organic, jammy nature to them, but they’re pulled off with what seems to be a skyscraping amount of premeditated skill. Winging it, Sunless ain’t.

Where most tech death bands seem to want to blow me away with notes or bend my mind with odd-time signatures, Sunless has an opportunity to make a real impression here. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but I feel like they’re in this weird middle ground in tech death between “you can’t even dream of playing these notes, you little shit” and “try to wrap your mind around this one, you neanderthal.” But Sunless only seems hard to follow until they all start playing, and then they make a special sort of sense? I don’t like that either, but that’s the only way I can explain how much I’m eagerly anticipating the 24th of February release of Urraca.

Who knows — maybe the whole thing’ll be techy gobbledygook after all, and I’ll feel justified in my ignorance. But I want to believe, Scully. And I’ve heard too much discordant grooving in these songs to convince myself otherwise.