I don’t get the “female fronted occult rock” trend that has come out of the metal underground in the past few years. To these ears, there’s nothing even remotely evil, let alone “occult” about ripping off Jefferson Airplane, Fleetwood Mac and Heart. Okay, this is the part where someone brings up Coven and I roll my eyes. I’m not saying the music is particularly bad, it just isn’t my thing, and it definitely isn’t Satanic. I mean, isn’t it really just revisiting the hippie-dippy horseshit that early heavy metal set out to stomp to bits at the end of the ’60’s, only with a quasi-diabolic lyrical bent?
That’s where NYC’s Occultation comes in. The trio has been lumped into this occult rock movement, but the truth is that they’re the only band of this ilk that actually sounds occult. Their debut album, Three & Seven, absolutely destroys the competition by creating a thick, hazy atmosphere; it’s a seriously arcane-sounding slab of psychedelia that owes little if anything at all to the ’60s, while still being hypnotic and hallucinatory. Much of this lysergic atmosphere is thanks to Negative Plane guitarist Nameless Void (billed here as EMM), who supplies guitar and organ for Occultation. His guitar tone sounds like insects swarming underwater, part black metal and part surf, lending the music an otherworldly character when combined with the simple rhythms and ghostly singing of bassist MAL and drummer V. Indeed, the vocals and instruments work in unison to transform Three & Seven into a doomed, droning aural miasma that’s quite unlike anything you’ve ever heard.
The production scheme employed by Occultation here is appropriately murky and drenched in reverb, adding to the overall atmosphere of the album without turning the instruments into indistinguishable mush. Occultation borrow the sonic aesthetic of black metal and apply it to music that is quite far removed from the genre to great and interesting effect; Three & Seven is dark and sinister but also strangely pretty. It’s a surreal mixture of the feminine, the devilish and the psychedelic that epitomizes how this genre is supposed to sound; Rosemary’s Baby recast as a malignant musical opium dream.
With Three & Seven, Occultation have crafted nearly forty minutes of truly esoteric music; it isn’t quite rock, nor is it entirely metal, but rather something uniquely its own. The trio taps into something primal, something far beyond the quasi-Satanic flower power silliness that characterizes the rest of the bands they’re being mentioned in the same breath as of late, something those other bands could never even begin to understand. Timelessly, tirelessly cult.