SKÁPHE – SKÁPHE³ (Iron Bonehead Productions / Mystískaos)

New Skáphe material is always to be welcomed … perhaps even more so during these unprecedented times of absolute misery and despondency. True to form, the third full-length instalment in the trans-Atlantic collective’s utterly-essential discography, ‘Skáphe³’, is another stunning release, further cementing Skáphe’s status as one of Black Metal’s most intriguing, irrepressible and important forces.

The music qualifies as atmospheric or ambient Black Metal – not in the traditional sense of easy-listening, wishy-washy melodic pomp but because the all-consuming, claustrophobic atmosphere that prevails is intoxicating, the sense of desolation, isolation and sheer madness evoked by the music impossible to ignore.

Misþyrming mastermind Dagur and Alex Poole (Chaos Moon, Guðveiki, etc.) have long been the prime driving forces behind Skáphe but on this latest offering Jackson Blackburn’s superhuman drumming contributes enormously to the manic maelstrom of unease. Haunting, detached and inimitable, ‘Skáphe³’ really is a masterpiece in every way – 37 minutes of ambient, soul-destroying, psychedelic, insane Black Metal imbued with an inherent dynamism and potency that most other bands – in any genre or subgenre – can only dream of achieving.

Four of the ten tracks are short, eerie instrumentals of less than a minute each, which play a vital role in setting the tone, but even within each of the actual songs proper, Skáphe to the power of three mainlines a devilish amount of flexibility, variety and experimentalism, resulting in a rich and vibrant tapestry of sound that’s at once bewitching and mystifying. A case in point is ‘A Spiritual Bypass’, which crams a myriad of ideas into four minutes, while the last two tracks – ‘Glass Sarcophagus’ and the magical nine-minute, mind-melting ‘Rebirth Synthesis’ – will leave you in awe, simultaneously nodding and shaking your head, gasping for more, assured that you are indeed in the presence of musical greatness.

Evilometer: 666/666