Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review: Caligvla - Bukkake Baptism

I'm completely unsure as to what's going on here, which probably means it's simple and I'm overthinking it. This is either an extremely ambitious piece or just a meaningless collection of songs, and it's jut as easy to make a case for either. The tone of this music is deadly serious once you get past the title of this EP, and the strange, seemingly mythological song titles point to something big going on below the surface; why hasn't this gotten more attention?

Now, the music is a combination of brutal death, metallic grindcore, and a surprisingly large amount of oldschool death/thrash. A grind-oriented drum machine is employed, generally blasting and erupting into spontaneous, crazed fills while death/thrash and brutal death riffs fly over in a stream of tremolo picking, battered by the guttural and savage vocal performance. The music is unbelievably brutal and intense: it's always fast as fuck, and when it's not fast it's a brooding, tense break before it pounds back into blasting. The tracks are short and incredibly violent, and the periodic intrusions of thrash actually make the music that much more savage, providing a shifting texture of rhythms for the riffs to react to.

What makes this so strange are the more precise aesthetic touches, all of which seem to come from albums with music very different from what's actually here. Interludes with misanthropic and warlike samples will appear regularly before getting smashed under a barrage of programmed blasting, and the shortness of the songs gives even the silence between tracks an atypical significance, as does the occasional clean guitar or haunting ambient section. The contrast of these moments of stillness and insane rage make for an exciting and admittedly exhausting listen; it's a good thing this CD is as short as it is, because I doubt anyone could take much more of this.

The EP raises a lot of questions which go essentially unanswered. What do the strange, spiritual song titles mean in the context of the music? Is the title EP actually some sort of bizarre statement and not just an attempt to offend? The overall question, though, is this: are we supposed to take this music seriously, or is it a big prank? I'm actually going with the less frequent answer I usually give: I think it's the former. The structuring and completeness of this release indicates a single-minded obsession with the abstract concept at hand, even if it's perpetually unclear what that concept is. This is certainly, though, one of the best and most atmospheric death/grind debuts I've ever heard.

This is Caligvla's only release, and it's unclear as to whether a follow-up will ever emerge. Even if it doesn't, this stands as a rather stark obelisk from one of the strangest and most sinister members of the deep underground metal scene to date. Highly recommended for those into death/grind which goes a step beyond but doesn't feel the need to draw attention to itself. Music like this deserves more attention.

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