Album Review: Strigoi - Viscera
Reviewed by Paul Hutchings
For those gathered in the Sophie Tent at Bloodstock 2022 on the final day of the festival, there was no doubt that Strigoi now stand as a force to be reckoned with in the world of extreme metal. That crushing set, predominantly drawn from the 2019 debut Abandon All Faith, merely whetted the anticipation for the arrival of their follow up release, written and recorded during lockdown. ‘Viscera’ is finally here, and it’s massive.
Whilst ‘Abandon All Faith’ tied off the loose ends of Vallenfyre, ‘Viscera’ establishes Strigoi’s sound as a separate entity with Greg Mackintosh and Chris Casket now joined by Guido Zima on drums and Satyricon guitarist Ben Ash. It’s an unsettling record, switching between crushingly heavy doom, such as the opening six-minute piledriver ‘United in Viscera’ to explosive blackened death metal – see the punishingly fast ‘King of All Terrors’ that follows the opening track. A blisteringly savage aural assault, the two-minute piece provides the necessary counterweight.
The music is dark, depressing, smothering. The riffs are intense, flickering through black metal into darkness, the pulsing grind a relentless hammer to the cranium. Mackintosh’s vocals are gruff, visceral, morbid, and harrowing. Casket’s bass lines surge with energy, a vibrant yet malevolent power that combines with the military precision of Zima’s muscular drumming.
The album is fantastically paced. The longer songs, as Casket comments are longer. The doom drenched funeral pace of ‘An Ocean of Blood’ and ‘Hollow’ brood, slowly expanding as the songs unfold. This contrasts with the thunderous movement of the shorter tracks. The atmosphere is bleak. Rolling clouds crash into each other, rock is hewn and breaks as ‘Bathed in a Black Sun’ slowly opens out. It’s oppressive, almost suffocating in its delivery and yet completely compelling in every aspect.
The final third of the album brings with it some of the most dramatic music. ‘Byzantine Times’ reaches deep into history, the Eastern part of the Roman Empire captured in a way that perhaps only Ex Deo dare reach, albeit a different period. The song is punishingly heavy, aided by bewitching female chants that swirl and captivate. It’s followed by the final short blast of ‘Redeemer’, complete with huge riff and demonic flow. A wall of brutality is released, bludgeoning double kicking underpinning possibly the heaviest track on the album.
The longest song on the album is left until last. ‘Iron Lung’ stands tall at just shy of eight minutes. The harrowing opening piece chills to the bone, the imminent storm merely delaying the inevitable. The tension is palpable, the drama something else. But there’s a surprise as Casket’s distorted bass takes centre stage, Mackintosh’s guttural vocals at their most menacing as the song spreads. It’s a huge song to conclude what is a quite stunningly good album.
With ‘Viscera’ Strigoi has not only delivered an album that has exceeded expectations, but it’s also provided a real contender for album of the year. It’s a natural, organic progression from their debut, and one that is definitely a must hear.