Review: “The Absence” by itSELF

The roots of itSELF go back as far as 2005 when Brazilian guitarist Ricardo Falon, now know for his work in both Sinister and Belphegor met drummer Estevan Furlan, their ambitions in Death Metal for the project huge. However things ground to a halt in 2013 with life getting in the way of perpetual forward motion for a seven year stretch until crowd funding during the great plague years allowed them to re-animate the corpse. Joined by Carsten Altena of The Monolith Deathcult who provides orchestrations, Linus Klausenitzer of Obsidious and formerly Obscura on fretless bass, Jason Peppiatt of Psycroptic on vocals as well as myriad of other guests, those nightmares became reality with the finished album “The Absence” unfit for human consumption. Recorded, mixed and mastered at Hertz Studio in Poland (Decapitated, Demonstealer, Vader, Behemoth) with the exception of the vocals which were recorded at Crawlspace Productions, the album is a concept release lyrically and musically centered around the seven deadly sins of humanity. Each track exploring a sin in vivid and tormenting detail, culminating in one final act of redemption in the last track of the album, a suicide note…

Joined by Helle Bogdanova of Ignea who provides delicately balanced clean vocals that underpin Peppiatt’s savage uncleans as well as a final verse of aching beauty, the album comes to life with “Voices of the Unheard (Pride)“. A brutal stab in the dark of modern Death Metal with technical overtones and cinematic orchestrations that looks at the infamous Chornobyl disaster from an entirely fresh angle, it lyrically exploring how pride comes before a fall with a tsunami of percussive battery. As with all the songs submitted in evidence before the court on this one, it’s a real thinking mans record; the lyric sheet available for in depth analysis and investigation long after the head banging and mosh pit activities are over, should one so desire. After that colossus of an opening “Schadenfreude (Envy)” finds the band joined by Jailson “Tucunaré” Bitencourt who provides additional tribal  percussion as the juggernaut gains momentum. This one feels like the kind of cut that Max Cavalera could only dream of creating with Soulfly, the pummelling elevated with the incredible orchestrations meaning that a solo is neither required or missed and the end result is something awe inspiring. A third high octane, full caffeine, full fat all aggressive cut in a row comes with “The Verdict (Wrath)“, which has all the pulsating energy of a live performance while being completely captivating. At its heart is a bitter and twisted tale of a woman abused as a girl by her father and then by her husband as a wife, who then goes on to kill her tormentor, all shoehorned into 217 seconds of rampaging Death Metal. It’s obscenely good and provides nuance on repeated listens. “Tomorrow… (Sloth)” then finds the legendary Terrance Hobbs of Suffocation adding an incredible extended incendiary fretboard smoking guitar solo while voice actor Ben Kramer (Road Trip, A Time for Dancing, Dreams of Her) provides a spoken word. Largely instrumental it’s an interesting musing on the loss of motivation to complete the tasks at hand, no matter how important they are with a surprising amount of agility and dexterity in musicianship on display.

There is absolutely no room for a soft center in this vicious onslaught and so the second half of the album begins as the first did, raising the hairs on the back of the neck with an adrenaline fuelled display titled “Samba, Corruption and Violence (Greed)“. Fast tapping sections and off kilter melodies fly like the winds of plague, classing with a political dissection of what is happening in Brazil delivered with all the fury of a demonic Australian. The spoken word and ethereal cinematic orchestrations elevate this one to a new realm of existence to the point that was is good fun evolves into something of epic stature by the closing moments. A story about a hedonist who was a slave to his addictions “Sentinel of the Sleeping Gods (Gluttony)” has the finest of the kit performances as Furlan gives Gene Hoglan a run for his money. Clever sounds like the sniffing of lines and the cracking open of beer cans enhance the storyline while the funky bass lines from Klausenitzer are allowed to bleed out into the mix in fine fashion. The solo from Falon is an absolute delight. Lyrically inspired by the tale of Francisco de Assis Pereira, also know as “The Park Maniac“, a Brazilian serial killer and rapist, “The F*** (Lust)” opens up the arteries with an Imperial March style before Peppiatt plays the protagonist in the first person. As turbulently violent as you’d expect, the musicians have created a monster too match his demonic performance, while also embracing Death Metal history in retelling gory tales and making their own note in the black book. An undertaking as grand as this requires a fitting finale and in “The Absence (Suicide Letter)” that mission is accomplished. A study of those of suffer from depression and Mental Health issues, adapted to create a tale of being overwhelmed by the seven deadly sins, it’s a masterful skull crusher front loaded with riffs. There is even time for a Jazz influenced bass solo within the schizophrenia. An album that will leave you crying for more, this is something very special indeed [9/10]

Track Listing

1. Voices of the Unheard (Pride) (ft. Helle Bogdanova of Ignea)
2. Schadenfreude (Envy) (ft. Jailson “Tucunaré” Bitencourt)
3. The Verdict (Wrath)
4. Tomorrow… (Sloth) (ft. Terrance Hobbs of Suffocation)
5. Samba, Corruption and Violence (Greed)
6. Sentinel of the Sleeping Gods (Gluttony)
7. The F*** (Lust)
8. The Absence (Suicide Letter)

The Absence” by itSELF is out 26th May 2023 with pre-orders available over at bandcamp.

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