interests. Striking a virulent, elegiac and mystical chord yoked to the
aesthetic traditions of Austin de Croze and Aubrey Beardsley, Thomas Ligotti
and Aloysius Betrand, Hivelords summon up solid — but not exceptional — black
arcane sludge metal with a psych and prog overlay. Enveloping with an
unpredictable sway (megaphonic fuzz), Cavern Apothecary is a raw and versatile
inner-sanctum ritual, and the work of each musician (Tyler Butler, b-g; Jason
Jenigen, d; e-g; Kevin North, vox; Will Rollem, e-g) is notable.
production value of 80’s anarcho-punk, with cymbal stampedes, fraught shrieks,
and a bookmark nu-wavey bridge. “Antennae Manifest” emulates antenna with a
brooding, mathy introduction that tremulously trembles. The psychedelia begins
here: dense and fragile bludgeons and waverings drowning in feedback. And
compositionally, “Antennae” is almost senselessly versatile, jointed parts articulate and shed like exoskeletons. Though offering delicious oppression under
brutal bass and barbed-wire riffs, “Cavern Apothecary” is a lyrically tiresome
occultist’s ‘Beware of Dog’ sign. Second-best track “The Growing Overwhelm” is
sauntering, dissociated salvia divinum fugue uncoiling over a restive 11
minutes. Closer “Auraglyph” is a shrine of sound, a wailing wall, a dysrhythmia
of fast-scuttling sludge with searing, tonally-protean guitar solos.
this is Hivelords’ intent — but their lyrics are like Atharva Veda magnetic
poetry arranged by Machen’s Lucian Taylor on a bad day. Only three examples of
sophisticated lyricism are extant in Cavern Apothecary. “Anntennae Manifest”
narrates, “Circumambulate the sacred cell / of lore and writhing; the righteous
swell.” Circumambulate, an awkward mouthful, does syllabically foil the second
line’s structure and describes the futile yantra invoked throughout Apothecary; “sacred cell” is a lucid description of Apothecary’s esoteric expression
(the album’s central interrogation is “What’s the cost of being freed?”); and
the concomitant “righteous swell” of gnosis and excruciation is apt (re:
Hesse’s “Mark of Cain,” or Kierkegaard’s Abraham, for whom true righteousness is asocial).
And “The Growing Overwhelm” intones, “The shade is the rock; the light is the
root / the light is the flower; the shade is the vine,” and warns, “Vile
emblems / violent roots / halo of vines / crown of truth,” combining a potentially
Christian Cabalism (or its reversal, if a constricting halo of hypertrophic
smother is the crown of truth) with a foreboding nature worship, also obviously
metaphoric, where “shade” is the stabilizing facilitator of, let’s just say,
mid- and lo-tone compression in grave-digging-dirt-showers of reverb.
Musically, the psychedelic phusis of Apothecary is a sublime mess; or, Hivelords’
cymbalism is perfect, but their symbolism
— not so much.
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