Captured Howls presents a journal of observations, a linguistic art piece… a blog on arts, music, and cinema

Poland’s -S- Crack The Psyche On New Album Of Black Metal & ‘Occult Funk’

-S-, as this band is evidently known, have released Dom, w którym mieszkał Wąż on the seemingly ever-present I, Voidhanger Records, and this unnaturally glistening amalgamation offers what you could take as a venture into the psyche, in which the band open a door and kick you into the dark, leaving you falling for the roughly 40 minutes the album runs.

It’s a full-length record tagged on Bandcamp under a range from black metal to “dark occult funk,” which starts to depict the startling picture Patyr and Grzegorz (evidently the band members) have crafted, along with their collaborators.

Although a literally surface-level observation, the large snake looping incomprehensibly into and out of a series of darkened passageways across the cover art, which has no clear demarcation of an ending or barrier and instead suggests the twisting scene extends in all directions, aptly reflects the contents of the album. There are familiar elements, like furious drums, hoarse vocals — which here take the form of occasionally even wordless yells, and searing bass, but each of these components feel like they’ve been stripped of any impact that made them really feel familiar.

What is apparently a lack of any guitar — although clarinets are consistently present — adds to the sense something is off, since the general subconscious might often expect otherwise with metal or music close to it.

The rhythms build, and loop, and build, and loop, driving the central perspective towards what could be described as mania but seems like more than that. It’s the state of disconnection. The album presents these elements in an orchestration that makes what could be ineffectively deemed no sense, leaving a raw, disquieting sensation of craving within the album. The music sounds like quietly gnawing your own arm off without much of a look in your eye — a vacant stare that suggests a void behind it, rather than open-ended nothingness. The music seems relatively unencumbered, because for all that could be said about its chaos and unrest, everything in there is roughly distinguishable, and the pace for many of the elements often stays slower than one might anticipate.

It’s dehumanized in the sense that the project doesn’t tread familiar melodic paths, instead sticking to structures on par with doom or drone, but the passion and confrontation inherent in the music give it nonetheless connective tissue. Humans, after all, made this, and we’re the ones listening to it, and the sprawling record seems to reflect something about just how foreign and off-putting some of our innermost selves can be. We make no sense! The contours of the unpredictable record blast this psychological sensation into the listener’s mental airwaves.

Dom, w którym mieszkał Wąż doesn’t offer easy conclusions for this observation. It carries a dismal tone, distancing it from any sense of triumph or release as though it were some kind of celebration of the absurd. And it’s not just absurdity for absurdity’s sake, although that, conceptually, seems difficult to actually reach. Placing a motive — using that break with familiarity to communicate something — elevates it, arguably to the same conceptual level as just about any other artistic creation.

As for this specific record, you could imagine the metaphors more expansively, like mentally seeing it evoke a circus or carnival well after dark in which half the lights are busted, yet some of the performers — looking in their darkened eyes as though they’re possessed — continue, dragging their limbs into shocking contortions. This album isn’t frivolous though, even if the twists are surprising, as is how the group makes these jumps feel somehow cohesive, a quality clearly evident.

The bass is menacing and haunting, spilling into view without an opportunity to miss it. We’re getting kind of farther from strict adherence to the record here, but imagine turning on a television to find the same show on every channel — and it’s just that, for days. Look outside and no one’s there. That’s the kind of scene depicted here. Something is wrong with the familiar — and we’re in it, with it a shockingly open question whether the species would stop its lurch for power, even with the physical path ahead completely destroyed and desolate.

The methodical progression of the music also suggests ritual, as though summoning the serpent extending across the cover art — and losing your own sense of self to its consciousness, all in one fell swoop. The long songs and consistency in tone and texture make the listening experience like stepping into somewhere entirely new. It’s dimensional, existential — the equivalent in an album of a sudden trance from which it’s difficult to snap.

Genre terms are pointless. Deconstructed post-black metal, maybe? Post-post black? Some have used “jazzy” or some variation of that in descriptions. But does that really capture it? Not really, although I’m not a jazz expert by absolutely any means. It’s all an illusion — a hall of mirrors. The emotional resolution of the album lies in that, in a strict sense, it doesn’t have one.

Find the album on Bandcamp via I, Voidhanger Records, where Dom, w którym mieszkał Wąż is available on physical media, at this link. Best I can tell, the same two core folks behind -S- are also in another ambitious black metal project from Poland called Licho. You can find the lyrics for their new album as -S- in photos on Discogs, if you’re interested. I didn’t mean for this to be this long even after editing, but oh well!

Listen to Dom, w którym mieszkał Wąż from -S- below!