Montreal's Spectral Wound Will Quench Anyone with 'A Diabolic Thirst' for Black Metal

BY Max HeilmanPublished Apr 13, 2021

No matter how many subgenres pour out of black metal, there's always a place for groups like Spectral Wound to keep the foundational flame alive. With its ferocious primitivism and thoughtful riffage, the Montreal band's 2018 sophomore album, Infernal Decadence, made waves beyond the Canadian underground. It clearly got the attention of Profound Lore Records, as Spectral Wound now present their third album as one of the label's most emphatic new signings. A Diabolic Thirst rises to the occasion as genre purism done correctly.

Opener "Imperial Saison Noire'' epitomizes all of the key tenets of black metal for uninitiated and veteran listeners alike. Amid blistering blast beats, surging tremolo riffage and wraith-like shrieks, Spectral Wound's balance of rawness and clarity is impressive. The band tightly executes thrashing rhythm changes and eviscerating guitar leads while remaining true to black metal's crude origins.

"Frigid and Spellbound" further emphasizes the effectiveness of the band's approach. Its main riff reinforces Spectral Wound's catchy songwriting underneath vocalist Jonah Campbell's glass-gargling screams. True to its name, "Frigid and Spellbound" feels like wandering through an oppressive blizzard, guided by the light of a Carcass-esque refrain. Uptempo punk beats and multi-part harmonies compellingly contrast with walls of dissonant noise, and that mystical acoustic interlude truly realizes Spectral Wound's dynamic potential.

Though crow caws and unplugged arpeggios recall classic black metal atmosphere, A Diabolic Thirst proves itself beyond mere nostalgia. "Soul Destroying Black Debauchery" seemingly foreshadows pandemonium, but it's actually a song where Spectral Wound diverts from brazen aggression to let their arrangements breathe. Though not terribly complex, each idea clearly sprouts from a firm grasp of why early Gorgoroth, Darkthrone and Dissection albums remain so timeless. Drummer Illusory peppers over-the-top speed with slower, groovier rock beats, which in turn gives guitarists Patrick McDowall and Sean Zumbusch more avenues to develop their riffs. Bassist Sam is particularly impressive, as he beefs up down-tempo passages and adds extra harmony when the tempo quickens — recapturing the lost art of bass guitar in "trve kvlt" music.

The album's natural progression is impressive considering its hellish template. "Mausoleal Drift" exemplifies this best, breaching 10 minutes with its 6/8 time signature. Every part of this cut remains vital and necessary, earning its run time by tactfully dealing its cards and saving its most overwhelming riff for last without padding out the length with lesser ideas. It also showcases A Diabolic Thirst's multifaceted soundscape, which burns like a blade of dry ice and shrouds like a midnight fog. Most importantly, it maintains a transportive quality without resorting to the tropes of post-rock or neo-folk.

For all its blunt impact, "Fair Lucifer, Sad Relic'' encapsulates A Diabolic Thirst's vivid aura. The track's memorability boils down to a constant state of motion, redoubling its momentum with charging percussion and ever-shifting guitar leads. To a similar effect, closer "Diabolic Immanence" bridges the gap between concussive four-on-the-floor and blustery, howling onslaughts. Airtight double-bass drumming and thundering tom-toms kick around everything the guitarists offer, culminating in a thunderous conclusion of cavernous, wretched cacophony.

While back-to-basics metal can seem like a cop-out, Spectral Wound proves their skill and comprehension with every vocal rasp and tremolo riff. A Diabolic Thirst succeeds not by innovation, but by distilling the very essence of a musical phenomenon.
(Profound Lore)

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