REVIEW: OCCULTATION [Silence In The Ancestral House]




by Feind Gottes

Occultation Will Haunt You With Silence In The Ancestral House

Every now and again I search for new music just for the chance of hearing something I haven’t heard before. Sometimes this experiment is awful ending with a hurried press of the stop button (icon usually these days) but I can’t help it when I have a thirst for something new I have to try and quench it. In an attempt to play it safe I went straight to the bandcamp page of Profound Lore Records. They seem to always have impeccable taste when it comes to doom or doom-ish bands so I was fairly confident I could easily find something to appease my nagging need for something new, something doomy yet something unlike every other band out there. This is how I discovered Occultation.

Silence In The Ancestral House was released by Profound Lore Records on October 14th and I find myself hard pressed to describe their sound adequately. The comparisons on their bandcamp page itself while accurate to a degree really tell you nothing of how they actually sound as I can’t think of a single band I can point to and say, “Occultation sounds like insert band name here.” The description from Profound Lore of “a wicked mix of classic Mercyful Fate, Death SS, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and The Cure.” tells you what? Yeah, basically nothing. What I can tell you is that Occultation play hauntingly creepy, eerie music that would fit perfectly into some John Carpenter horror film setting the mood for terrible things to unfold before your eyes. Silence In The Ancestral House is one you truly need to hear and judge for yourself as it mixes elements of black and doom metal into an end product that is as progressive as it is experimental. Also of note, it was produced, mixed and recorded by Converge’s Kurt Ballou who has come to be one of the premiere producers in all of metal. I’ve never been a fan of Converge, they’re just not my flavor, but I am a huge fan of Kurt Ballou in the production booth. Some producers have a way of bringing out the best sound a band has to offer and Ballou has proven to be one of those and this album is no exception.

Aptly titled Intro begins with bells chiming in a mockery of a children’s nursery rhyme setting the eerie mood that Occultation maintains through the following eight tracks. The haunting vocals break in with “The Ancestral House is quiet…” and the foreboding eerie tone is set for all that is to come. Intro breaks right into a faster yet still haunting The First of the Last with the metal quotient turned up while maintaining the haunting tone started on the first track. I can’t help thinking of my favorite King Diamond album, Them, as Silence in the Ancestral House seems to weave its own horror story minus King Diamond’s high-shrieking falsetto. The vocals blend perfectly with the music as if being sung from beyond the grave beckoning you in further like sirens luring you onto the rocks. In this case you happily crash on the rocks begging only to be able to do it again.

Laughter in the Halls of Madness sets out another deceivingly fast pace with VB’s haunting voice continuing to, all pun intended, drive you mad (all three band members use only their initials rather than names). Occultation sound familiar though it is impossible to pinpoint from exactly where as the entire thing is one creepy delight after another. They sound like a creepy metal soundtrack to a Munsters movie which is meant as a giant compliment. ‘Madness fades to All Hallows Fire which continues this multi-layered trip through the labyrinth of the apparently haunted Ancestral House. You can only smile that the “Silence” part of the title doesn’t come into play because this is just a pleasure to hear. Through the first four tracks it is deceptively heavy with so much going on musically that you not only want but need several listens to attempt taking it all in.

The halfway point of the album, The Place Behind The Sky, comes in with a marching riff overlaid with a trippy guitar part that keeps your ears fully enthralled for more. The vocals fit perfectly in their dreamy “called out from beyond” style smartly set slightly back in the mix by producer guru Ballou to make them sound even more haunting which is reminiscent of what Tool does in mixing their albums. The vocals seem to flow out of the music rather than being front and center with the music merely a backdrop to them. It doesn’t fit every bands’ style but is absolutely perfect for Occultation as it is for Tool.

The Dream Tide begins making you think it’s going to be a scorching rocker which it is in its way. The rhythm section marches on with the vocal cadence following suit. This may just be the highlight song of the album serving its purpose well as it only makes you want to hear more. It has a sing along feel and I can’t help but bob my head to the rhythm as I’m totally sold on the album’s awesomeness at this point and just enjoying myself. The Dream Tide breaks on the shore of the short interlude of Intermission which connects back to Intro, feeling like a creepy yet beautiful version of a children’s nursery rhyme.

The final two tracks bring the album to a close in epic doom style. Forever Hereafter mixes some familiar Black Sabbath riffage in without ripping off the heavy metal forefathers. The vocals are pushed a little forward in the mix for a slightly more powerful edge though still sounding like a spirit calling out to you from the back of the graveyard or “to the great beyond” as the lyrics so nicely suggest. Forever Hereafter takes you on a sonic journey that you don’t want to end though it eventually fades to the closing epic title track, Silence In The Ancestral House. A soft guitar riff accompanies an almost acapella vocal line serving as the intro before the drums pound in and the guitars burst forth with fervor. The song speeds up and slows down at will keeping it interesting to the bitter end.

Silence In The Ancestral House seems like a slow burn on the first listen but with repeated spins you start to understand just how heavy it is similar to the aforementioned Tool. Occultation may sound nothing like Tool but with Ballou behind the boards he definitely mixed it like a Tool album. Every instrument sounds crisp and sharp and the vocals hang back just enough in the mix to compliment and give the impression they are truly being called out from the back of the graveyard. My first impression of the album was a subtle 3.5 out of five but repeated listens crank it up to easily a 4 and perhaps higher after yet a few more spins. It is definitely one you can say has no equal out there. Occultation don’t sound like any other band I can think of so on the originality front Silence in the Ancestral House screams out a pure 5.

Words: Feind Gottes (editor, Thy Demons Be Scribblin)

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