Spain is not the first place I think of when it comes to metal. Hell, it isn’t even the 20th place. But one of the gnarliest bands to come along in years hails from the land of bullfighting and Salvador Dali. The band is Teitanblood, who released the brilliant Seven Chalices in 2009… and I slept on it. Yes, I somehow managed to miss out on the duo’s eerie, crushing, miasmal black/death assault until early 2010, but once I did finally hear it, I became obsessed. Had I heard the album sooner, it would have given my 2009 top ten black/death albums (as seen in Dethroned Emperor #25) a run for their money, to say the very least.
What is most interesting about Teitanblood’s assault is how difficult it is to categorize. Elements of black metal, death metal, doom and even a hint of crust all rear their ugly heads throughout Seven Chalice’s lengthy duration, creating a sound that is extremely enjoyable in it’s fetid, suffocating noxiousness, but also extremely difficult to pin down. The picture becomes even more hazy when you consider the numerous ambient/atmospheric interludes (which sound like orchestral maneuvers in hell) that pop up throughout the album. It is almost as if the band distilled everything that makes 4 decades worth (if the release of Black Sabbath’s s/t marks year one) of dark and evil sounding music great and out came the vile afterbirth that is Seven Chalices.
There is a very ritualistic quality to the album and an emphasis on atmosphere characteristic of black metal, but the crushing and cavernous guitar tones are pure oldschool death. Indeed, this is what is missing from so much modern so-called extreme metal, the average big budget death metal album is about as nauseatingly squeaky clean and sterile as the average Disney film. I sincerely doubt anyone believes the true purveyors of the coming apocalypse will use Pro Tools to deliver their message of destruction. Seven Chalices sounds like it was recorded in a dank garage by people that are actually possessed, but instead of doing crab-walks and 360 degree head-spins, Satan is compelling them to beat the living shit out of their instruments.
Bands that take this violent/primitive/lo-fi approach often forget about two of the most important aspects of good metal, guitar riffs and leads. This is not the case with Teitanblood. There is some killer sludge-ridden buzzsaw guitar-work going on throughout the album, and the leads are psychotic, atonal spasms of distortion that conjure images of early Slayer on a crack binge. The drums are a bit buried in the album’s deep, dark mix, but they perfectly suit each song and have a punk/d-beat quality to them at times that makes the record feel like Teitanblood could fly right off the rails at any moment, impaling your skull with projectile guitar necks and drumsticks. But they keep it together even when the songs reach a psycho-Satanic fever-pitch, always managing to return from the brink of total chaos.
It seems as though there is a return to the primitive happening in the metal underground and Teitanblood are arguably the focal point of this movement along with a handful of bands such as the mighty Vasaeleth, Blasphemophagher, Diocletian, Deiphago, Impetuous Ritual and Proclamation (who shares a member with Teitanblood). As someone who has recently grown increasingly fed up with the pap the “bigger” metal labels are attempting to cram down our throats under the guise of death metal, Teitanblood is a breath of fresh air… even if I am kicking myself for not discovering them sooner. If you share these feelings and have yet to check out Seven Chalices, I strongly recommend you rectify the situation at any and all costs.