Iravu - A Fate Worse Than Home (Vita Detestabilis / Fiadh)

As a lover of sci-fi, I've long longed for black metal (BM) that foregoes icy forests for the even more frigid depths of space. While Darkspace have their acolytes, BM lacks a scene as identifiable as the "cosmic" death metal (DM) movement  despite the quasi-mainstream success of Mare CognitumHareesh Kumar Shanggar is the latest intrepid voyager to attempt a giant leap for kvlt kind, eager to plant Iravu's rainbow flag onto a desolate moon.

In keeping with Universally Estranged's more sophisticated take on astral themes, Shanggar dips into an electronic toolkit to place his music within the vacuum of space. Unlike these counterparts, however, Iravu's brand of ambient is not the eerie drip of a modular synth, but something meditative, drawing upon a calming New Age palette. These soothing sounds contrast powerfully with devastating riffage, especially in the album's opener, which oscillates between these elements as if to embody the way a seething star must rest in the abject stillness of the void. The closer, "Home", culminates instead with a unification of the two elements into an uplifting pseudo-blackgaze extravaganza. That isn't to say the heavy material struggles in isolation; "Fear and Lead" sounds like a bull in a space station, leaning furthest into Iravu's DM inspirations to rip away with reckless abandon. Indeed, DM influences permeate the record as virtuoso whirlwinds emerge like solar storms, recalling the flair of Derrick Vella and his own old-school inspirations. Shanggar has created something special in a realm between terror and ecstasy  and the finishing touch is his heartfelt lyricism, which uses the loneliness of the spacefarer to illustrate the personal isolation that comes with self-actualisation in an often repressive world. Space may be cold and impersonal, but Iravu brings a human warmth  let us hope this voyage is only just beginning.