Turning on London Orbital, the latest album from the U.K-based post-black metal project Kassad, feels like getting suddenly enveloped in a frigid, shiver-inducing wind. The album progresses through frequently lengthy, carefully built melodies that are repeatedly punctuated with somber bursts of gut-clenching fury, like the whole piece is soundtracking a solitary journey amidst desolate streets pockmarked by moments of keeling over in anguish.
There’s a remarkable amount of cohesion and forward-moving, searing intensity in the tremolo-picked riffing and repeatedly maniacal drum patterns, and London Orbital grounds these melodies in a kind of gritty, close-to-the-chest realism via the ambiance that frequently pops up on the tracks for extended periods, like much of the lengthy third and fourth tracks, called “The Hope” and “The Hopeless,” respectively. Closing track “The Hollow” features essentially entirely chilling ambiance with a soft but relentlessly somber melody snaking along like wisps of smoke gradually filling the lungs or a flood of water slowly but surely reaching the face.
The only “peace” is the so-called peace of letting go in the face of immense, nearly incalculable anguish. For minutes at a time, somberly strummed segues reverberating through the background ring out, and when the more physically intense performances pick back up again, that soul-chilling somberness remains.
The music features a crisp, matter-of-fact tone throughout the methodically progressing song constructions, even when the waves of chest-beating ferocity start to roll in. There’s not much of a sense of something physically overwhelming — there are no segues into grind, or death metal, or waves of feedback that wash the feeling of everything else away. There’s just the stark, gradually building music itself, which in spirit, might be compared to the somehow emotionally hollow certainty of a horizon filled with an endless array of the city buildings whose collective presence seems to inform Kassad’s work. (London Orbital is a name for a highway around London.) The vocals repeatedly pierce the somberly proceeding melodies with a beastly shriek, accompanied by intensifications in the music, which together suggest the presence of someone standing alone amidst a cityscape, crushed under an internal weight of solitude.
The music seems to capture that experience of standing alone with nothing but the wind tunnels of the spaces in between buildings for company. There’s not so much of some kind of otherworldly, over-the-top menace, as the music always stays quite focused on the somberly swaying, melodic core. Instead, there’s the internally stewing emotional crush of chilling loneliness. It’s an immersive confrontation with desolation.
Check out the music below! It’s available via Hypnotic Dirge Records.