Label: Horror Pain Gore Death Productions
Release date: February 1st 2019
Format reviewed: high-rate mp3 promo
Up until about one month ago, I was unfamiliar with the body of work that UNENDLICH has put out so far since 2014, when Michael Connors released “Monarch of the Damned”, the debut album of his, then, one-man project. Hailing from Baltimore in the state of Maryland, Michael released a sophomore effort in 2016, titled “Scales of Existence”, once again as a one-man project, under the moniker Unendlich. In 2018, Anthony Rouse came aboard as the band’s drummer, and the duo released an EP titled “Misanthropic Sedition”, last November. Scheduled for release on February 1st 2019, is the duo’s first full-length album together, “Thanatophobia”, also marking the third full-length Unendlich release.
Unendlich means “infinitely” or “never ending” in German. A rather fitting moniker for a black metal project. One would ask: "What about ‘Thanatophobia‘? What’s that all about?” Please allow me to put on my best Gus Portokalos impersonation … In the Greek mythology, Thanatos was the personification of death, while phobia, also from Greek, meaning an extreme or irrational fear (of something). So, there we have it: Thanatophobia, the fear of Death, an anxiety caused by thoughts of death. Thanatophobia is a psychological subject pioneered by Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. Freud hypothesized on the subject of fear of death, concluding that it was not actually death that people feared, but rather unresolved psychological conflicts that they cannot come to terms with or express emotion towards. A pattern of ideas on which the lyrical theme of “Thanatophobia” relates to heavily. Vis-à-vis to the album’s lyrical content, Michael Connors himself writes: “Thanatophobia deals with the reliance on religion as a mechanism to satisfy the human ego’s desire to attribute meaning to one’s existence and pacify the feelings of discomfort in the unknown – in life and in death.”
This album is serious business! Serious as a heart attack. No dime-a-dozen fictitious satanic figures raping virgins on ruins of altars of sacrifice, under the sign of the pentagrams and surrounded by black candles, melting away by the eternal hell’s fire … Nope. Not here. The enlightening philosophy of “Thanatophobia” draws directly from the psychological subjects at hand, a clear separation from the absurd and banal. The excellent cover art, by Misanthropic-Art, including the album’s title, is the first indication that the album deals profusely with a serious subject matter. Once again, aptly described by the words of Michael Connors: “The art portrays the concept of the fear of death and how people feel helpless when confronted with it or the thought of it – literally and figuratively drowning at sea in a futile struggle against the greater force of death.”
“Thanatophobia” is first class, riff oriented, with groove and melody, black metal! Its musical persistency, articulate yet temperamental composition and relevant arrangements, drags in the listeners, keeping them on their toes, not knowing what to expect next: intriguingly unpredictable. The effective use of motifs and accents, including the piano, combined with violin in instances, adds deeply melancholic layers to the arrangements. The instrumental accuracy and technical proficiency, combined with the, quite frequent, death metal realm incursions, adding a progressive edge to the overall sound. It is as extreme, as it is fluid. Both, Michael and Anthony bringing their absolute “A” game to the table, well, in this case the recording studio. The drumming on this album is utterly impeccable! It was very exciting to hear an underground black metal project with a real drum sound. And what a sound! Flawless patterns and fills, organically steady and elegantly detailed - a key element to the album. Oscillating between big open chords & riffs and atmospheric interludes, the guitar parts are essential elements to the sound on this release. However, and going back to, it is the profusion of motifs, accents and interludes that catapult “Thanatophobia” to the highest levels. Said elements being present on all eleven tracks of this majestic opus. Exempli Gratia: just listen to the first minute and a half of “Secrets of Consequences” - the gradual layering of the ethereal acoustic guitar with the bass, piano chords and the abstract cymbals pattern, leading into the track. Another key element to the album are the vocals. A very clever mix at that. From the deepest howls of death, to the clean tenor, articulate singing, and the well placed into the arrangement, narration interludes, the vocals are very well integrated into the songs’ structures. Worth mentioning: the absolutely demonic grim and grit vocals, categorically representative of black metal, are clear (enough) for the listener to be able to follow the lyrics. Moribund and merciless as Lion’s Daughter “Existence Is Horror” (2016), astute and gracious as Tribulation “Down Below” (2018) … existential.
Hellishly intense, yet melodic and extremely well put together, “Thanatophobia” is a black metal dream, or nightmare, whichever you prefer. It elevates the listener from infernal depths to impenitent heights, only to inevitably descent again, deeper into the darkest of human’s fears and the crude lament of existence … Highly recommended! 10/10
Horror Pain Gore Death Productions
© 2019 by Emil Chiru