Crymych - Songs of Sistrum (Death Prayer Records)

While many black metal (BM) bands were busy last year unleashing boisterous tremolo bonanzas, the lurking warlocks in Crymych carved out a niche for themselves in the crowded world of dark ambient / atmoblack. Contrary to the worn-in routine of welding vibey space drones and elongated pads to oppressive blast-beat savagery (think Kvelgeyst), the supposed duo approach the genre from the other way around. After a debut dabbling almost exclusively in electronics, their 2022 offering, Endless Fucking Winter, let the pale and repetitive BM elements glow dimly through its fragile ambience. Less than a year later, they’ve taken things to even more dismal extremes.

Songs of Sistrum is not a breakout album by any stretch of the imagination. Its chiming keys and churning cymbals are forever condemned to ring the sewers underground. As if trapped on a quarter-inch reel tape, Crymych screech and hiss, suppressed and distant, like demented wraiths under your bed. The profound atmosphere that made their preceding output so compelling now comes layered with deceptively cheeky fret acrobatics and snare fills so pronounced as to bely the ‘lo-fi’ tag. An erosive guitar noise makes the tracks feel like they’re buried six feet beneath the soil, but our mysterious frontman’s blood-curdling snarls cut to the surface like skeletal fingers in Crymych’s barren cemetery. If anything, though, it’s the synthesizer’s elysian chords that animate this eldritch creation from its subterranean slumber. Simplistic in patterns but hauntingly precise, their echoing harmonies creep into the mind like the xylophonized chord progressions on Toby Fox’s “Waterfall”. The imperfect gem of the vast underground it may be, Songs of Sistrum has not once failed to send shivers down my spine. Any fan of creepy atmoblack would be a fool to let it slip under the radar.