Reverorum Ib Malacht - Kyrie Eleison (Self-released)

Reverorum ib Malacht are weird and obscure even for weird and obscure black metal (BM). Their strong identification with Roman Catholicism has invited skepticism among the few still committed to BM’s anti-theistic heritage, but in a Bandcamp universe that embraced Batushka’s religion, you’d think that recurring members Karls Hieronymus Emil Lundin and Axel Mikael Mårtensson would have made more headway releasing seven full-lengths this decade. Ultimately, Reverorum ib Malacht make challenging and very un-fun music, whose bizarre mélange of industrial aesthetics, gurgled vocals, and pulpit-shaking invective isn’t helped by their cloak of self-seriousness. To my eye, the whole bit springs more from a counter-countercultural edgelord impulse than a full-throated commitment to the tenets of the Church. Frankly, the fact that their music sometimes hits hard has been remarkably ancillary to my experience of the band’s conceptual underpinnings. I really appreciate an exquisite narrative, but maybe that's because this more take-it-or-leave-it thematism feels so prevalent in hot BM from the likes Vitriolic Sage and (dare I say it) Esoctrilihum. As it turns out with Reverorum, I return to the mossy-cathedral logic of Svag i döden every so often, and Crisper swears by the acid-trip ambience of Vad är inte sju huvud. Here with Kyrie Eleison, they've given their heretic orthodoxy more punch, by streamlining it with ferocity.

Indeed, if Esoctrilhum's Blakeian BM needed Consecration of the Spiritüs Flesh to realize its most relentless form, then Reverorum needed Kyrie to do the same of their warehouse-chapel rave music. The release signals a new beginning in its Greek title (literally, "Lord, have mercy"), which came to refer to the opening prayer of a Christian mass and, relatedly, the opening movement of centuries’ worth of sacred music pieces. (Those uninitiated in The Hilliard Ensemble or their recording of Guillame de Machaut's Messe de Notre-Dame should put it on as background.) Unfortunately, Lundin and Mårtensson’s own introductory invocation does little more than fill time with muffled-mic vocals and the clanging of thuribles on marble. But this frustrating start has the counterintuitive benefit of getting most of their bad habits out of the way in one eminently skippable track. It’s not like these atmospherics don’t get plenty of shine, anyway; they just work best when they’re taking up earned space. Here more than on any of the earlier releases, they live as mise en scene in Kyrie Eleison’s quick-cutting, hard-hitting action sequence of industrial BM. 

These ‘psalms' definitely do sound something like they're being blasted for a dance hall of off-duty gargoyles. Irreverent poses flash in the strobes; smells of cold stone mingle with ecstasy sweat; and most important, the vibe does not grow stale. Reverorum’s knack for layering drum loops has always carried a distinct mood, but here they compete with Benthik Zone in allowing it to thrive and transmutate in four- and even five-act songs. Their racket moves around much more than the metronomic ‘boom crash, boom crash’ of so much industrial metal, with a distinctly mechanized virtuosity that almost reminds me of finger-drumming masters like araabMUZIK. Either way, it endows both traditional BM sequences (“Ps. 27”)  and holy-water sound collage (“Ps. 22”) with a kind of cyborg potency. Hell, even the downright ghoulish throat singing gets a boost, with cuts like “Ps. 141” sounding something like a Saw film set in a Franciscan abbey. That’s deviant worship.