By Derelikt Waugh

 Right from the ethereally delicate piano opening and onward, you can tell that Tortorum are not here to bore you to death with yet another “trve kvlt”, produced-in-mommy’s-basement, Burzum meets Bathory at the high school dance, sub-grade regurgitation of all things black metal. No, they are here to deliver the real deal, and they pull it off with malevolent grace and awe-inspiring aplomb. “Katabasis” is black metal artistry of the highest order, but not so “arty” (aka boring-as-fuck) that it loses the listener in self-indulgent avant-gardery and useless interludes. There’s a certain mystical darkness about “Katabasis” that reminds me a little bit of Inquisition in tone on the mid-paced numbers, but then it thrashes like Absu on speed when Tortorum picks up the pace. No, this definitely is not some ambient shoe-gazing, traipse-through-the-ice-covered-forest black metal album, although it’s certainly packed full of atonally bleak melodies. This is a much fiercer offering to the metal gods, harkening back to material by Takke, Endstille and Watain.

The production here is outstanding (mastered and mixed by Tore Stjerna in Sweden’s well-known Necromorbus Studios), which is a good thing since Tortotum are highly-skilled musicians that need and deserve production quality of this caliber. Every instrument is clear in the mix, and the vocals (provided by The Barghest) are highly audible, jarringly malignant and downright haunting when he delivers the clean parts. The album as a whole flows seamlessly, at times brooding, at other turns bombastic, as one dark epic fades into the next, creating the impression of a massively opaque symphony composed and performed by nightshades, devils and inter-cosmic entities. “Katabasis” is a must-have for fans of quality black metal and a must-hear for ears that are open and in-tuned to the darker frequencies of life and death.