Infernal black metal duo Sortilegia have brought forth a leviathan.
It’s perilously easy for black metal to descend into self-parody, and become reduced to dramatic gestures and empty shapes. Like any genre of music that attempts to create a real sense of darkness and risk, it’s all too easy for audiences to become dulled, and for what was once risky to become ordinary.
Few contemporary black metal projects are able to do what Toronto duo Sortilegia manage to accomplish with an eerie effortlessness: gesture towards black metal’s dark, raw origins without mocking, mimicking, or damning by faint imitation. On their debut full-length, Arcane Death Ritual, Sortilegia has created something that feels genuinely dangerous.
While certainly raw, the production style doesn’t feel like an affectation; there’s a primordial ferocity in the torque and texture of the sound that could not otherwise be captured. Arcane Death Ritual is an exercise in the limits of control, a constantly threatening and ever-shifting restraint. The record seems to be just barely contained, and ever ready to erupt into violence.
The songs structures are serpentine, with a sinewy strength to them. They undulate and throb through a series of incantation-like rhythms. The songs are long, unspooling things that ripple and writhe, and as they change shape become hard to hold on to. The listener is left with the unpleasant certainty that something terrible is being summoned from a great depth; the wonder of Sortilegia is that they have enough darkness in their sound that you start to worry they might succeed.