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culture

Sound Advice: Sacred White Noise, by Thantifaxath

By annihilating their individual identities, the members of this black metal project find a common, if alien, voice.

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The members of Thantifaxath prefer to remain anonymous. There are no credits in the liner notes of either the band’s self-titled 2011 debut EP or its long-awaited first full-length, Sacred White Noise (released April 15 via Dark Descent Records). When the band performs live, its members cover themselves head to toe in robes that obscure their faces, thereby erasing their individual identities and becoming absorbed into a collective. It’s not that these musicians are going to extreme lengths to hide who they are—they’re making a clear aesthetic choice. Thantifaxath is about the erasure of the ego, about obscuring the personal so that something deeper and more profound can emerge.

Thantifaxath’s music is unquestionably black metal in terms of its composition and texture. The guitar tone has an acrid, ashy edge; the songs often feature buzzing swarms of riffs; and the vocals are harsh, wraith-like rasps that would do any traditional black metal band from darkest Norway proud. While it retains these more traditional touchstones of the genre, though, Thantifaxath also creates something considerably weirder, and more wonderful, with Sacred White Noise.

First of all, the record is ambitiously, ferociously technical, powered by a confidence that’s evident in every brilliantly executed guitar passage and blaze of percussion. The towering, menacing “Gasping in Darkness” is particularly finely wrought. Technique and precision of this calibre are impressive enough, but what really sets Thantifaxath apart is its refusal to sacrifice the quality of the songwriting or the emotional authenticity of the music in favour of pure virtuosity. Sacred White Noise is a startlingly melodic album, with moments of smoothness that give way to a wrenching ache in “Where I End and the Hemlock Begins.” The band is equally adept at creating smothering, sepulchral aural environments and delicate, ethereal passages.

“Thantifaxath” is a magical or alchemical term that refers to a tunnel connecting the material world with the dark, astral place outside of creation. It is a path that stretches toward everything dark, unknowable, powerful, and unnatural; it is a liminal space of profound possibilities and danger. Sacred White Noise beckons the listener down such a path—one that leads away from all that is comfortable and familiar, and toward something much riskier, weirder, and more wondrous.

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