Band – Rorcal
Album – Silence
Country of Origin – Switzerland
Genre – Black Metal, Post Metal, Sludge Metal
Release Date – September 29, 2023
Label – Hummus Records
Author – Andy D
Every now and then, a band comes to prominence with a wildly unique, creative style that puts into perspective how compartmentalized extreme metal genres can get. When leagues of black metal and sludge bands continue to narrow themselves into smaller and smaller niches in genres that are already well-trodden, sometimes a band scrambles the assumptions of genre enough to keep everything interesting. Rorcal is one such band.
Since their founding in 2006, Rorcal has consistently put out genre-confounding extreme metal of a very high quality and a very specific nature. On their 16th significant project in 15 years, they sound more monolithic than ever.
Starting with the lead single “Early Mourning”, the album wastes no time to assert exactly what the listener is in for. The most notable thing from the very first notes of this album, even in comparison to the band’s already distinguished back catalog, is the sound. While remaining incredibly crisp, the guitar and bass meld together across the whole frequency spectrum, serving each chord as a thick slice of noise, dripping with distortion. Fuzz, cymbals, snare hits, and grinding bass melt into each other, rendering every hit synchronized between the kick drum and guitars a punch in the ears. This amount of intensity is especially impressive considering the generous amount of reverb in the production. Throughout the full eight tracks, this sonic texture rarely varies, creating a unique but unchanging atmosphere of oppressive darkness.
While the sound is consistent, each song offers an impressive amount of compositional variety. This release does not contain much of the more structurally experimental side of the band, instead distilling their distinctive style of riffing into condensed, extreme songs, each of which brings something unique to the narrative flow of the record. No song is over ten minutes, and the two songs that are longer than six feel monumental in comparison to the rest. Each song’s structure cycles back and forth through the variety of extreme metal flavors Rorcal can whip out at a moment’s notice, which results in a record more tightly paced than many of the band’s collaborations and older material. A song might start with harrowing, dissonant chords that would fit perfectly in a song from Blut Aus Nord circa 2003, only to recede into a drone with swirling, hellish post hardcore-inflected octave riffs over the top, ending with a black metal chorale befitting the kvltest Norwegian forest. On the other hand, some songs (“Extinguished Innocence”, “Constant Void”) feature a more fragmented, chugging style, which reminds me more of chaotic hardcore bands like Jeromes Dream, Combatwoundedveteran, or Usurp Synapse. These serve as delightful reminders of sludge metal’s stylistic origins in hardcore, and contrast nicely with the slower, doomier elements of the two longest tracks.
These comparisons are not to paint Rorcal as derivative – on the contrary, the band takes each of these sounds and makes them their own. Every one of these styles is filtered through the aforementioned punchy production and Rorcal’s wildly dissonant style of harmony. Even during the most straightforwardly epic post-metal moments, a chord never really feels like it will resolve, and at the most extreme moments the progressions and riffs slide into full atonality. “Childhood Is A Knife In The Throat” is a fascinating example, with a climax that features chord after chord of disorienting, unexpected dread. The dense, unrelenting quality of the band’s note choices makes for some of the darkest atmospheric metal I have heard in a very long time.
The album is pretty well structured in spite of its unwavering intensity, featuring two longer, slower-building tracks at the end of each LP side. This is the primary place on the album for the more drone-oriented side of Rorcal’s sound. In particular, “Extinguished Innocence” features a notable change of pace. The song begins with a strange, discordant riff, unchanging over a heavy drone which almost seems to swallow it. On top of this, the vocals unexpectedly diverge from black metal shrieks to a sludgy, midrange pitched singing, perhaps the most direct “sludge” element on the whole record.
One thing I do miss from Rorcal’s earlier work is the occasional forays into more experimental territory. While some previous albums and collaborations have featured self-contained chamber music, dark ambient, dungeon synth pieces, this album remains solidly within standard metal song structures, with the only hints of those elements relegated to intros and outros of a couple songs. While a more significant change in texture could have been nice, the variety in songwriting styles does help to differentiate each song, and the album never lost my focus over several listens.
Overall, Rorcal successfully continues their quest to conjure some of the most hopeless slabs of musical darkness out there, and still seamlessly integrate each of the stylistic influences that make them unique. While they have already blessed us with a very prolific output over the years, I think Silence’s crushing production and tight song structures make for a worthy addition to their catalog. I look forward to seeing what they do next.
Biography: Andy D is a composer, bassist, and recovering academic. His own musical output draws from free improvisation, electroacoustic composition, metal, and jazz.