Release Date: 22 February 2019
Format reviewed: Digital Promo
One of the best things about exploring new bands and new music is coming across ‘that’ album which literally tears your head off on the first listen. You have no idea when it’s coming, or who it will be (obviously, outside of those bands you know) – and when it hits, well, that’s just the greatest buzz! I still look for it daily. Early days 2019, the aforementioned has played out in the form of ‘Emergence’ – the sophomore effort from Philadelphia four piece Death Metal act Basilysk.
Formed by vocalist and guitarist Josh Perrin, Basilysk released their first album ‘Seasons of Misanthropy’ in 2012. The band reignited with a new line up in 2016 and with ‘Emergence’ you could say that they are now an entirely different proposition to the one we heard on said debut, some seven odd years ago.
From the outset, it must be stated that this is very, very good. There are Death Metal albums that do a great job in maintaining the status quo; fierce, unrelenting brutality captured in spades – then there are Death Metal albums that rise above, that possess an air of superiority, a deadly seriousness and supremely devastating attitude in delivery. It stands out like the proverbial sore thumb. I have no problem with the former at all – but when a band appears with an album that wants to up the ante in all aspects of its music, then it simply cannot be ignored. From the moment I heard the lead single ‘Sinners of their Own Reality’ last month it was clear to me that this band had something special about it. As it turns out, that 7 minutes of brilliance is only the tip of the iceberg. This has legs, folks, and having spent the last month with the album promo, ‘Emergence’ has weaved its magic upon my psyche more than several times and such is its staying power that I am confident that it will appear on many end of year lists.
So why is this a just little better than your regular Death Metal fare? Well, for me, it’s all about the song writing and the utterly spellbinding musicianship. Taking their cues from Morbid Angel’s steamrolling riff template, dropping in smatterings of Death like progressiveness and a vicious Dissection meets Suffocation-like potency, ‘Emergence’ is awash with pure class – honed and refined to the point of perfection, it hits with the ferocity and savagery of a sledgehammer. Whilst Death Metal best describes the style Basilysk put forth, there are several elements to their sound that offer a point of difference – perhaps Josh Perrin says it best in an interview when describing his band’s music: he states that The Basilisk itself is a mythical creature depicted as being part snake, part dragon and part bird. And true to form, Basilysk’s musical style is also a serpentine assault on the senses, careening between death metal, black metal and thrash metal with an esoteric atmosphere and dark, mystical lyrics.
I did mention musicianship, hey? This is where Basilysk take all that is great about the Death Metal sound and make it their own. This is where the band steps out of the shadows of their contemporaries and throws down light and shade, progressive twists and turns and ideas that truly work beyond the tired recycled, rehashed structures and arrangements that we have come to associate with this style. And this is not to suggest that Basilysk have gone full-on prog/weird/technical to the point of losing their way – far from it – it’s just that the band’s instrumental capabilities allow their compositions to expand into more interesting and fertile directions.
Furthermore, there is a real ambitious quality about ‘Emergence’ – it has the feel of a band ready to take the scene by storm. This is no more evident that on their 15 minute 3 part epic track ‘Pre-Birth-Karma-Afterlife’. A complex and aspiring piece of work that truly represents the full gamut of Basilysk’s influences and musical interplay plus their ace in the pack – the astounding lead work of Josh Perrin. And therein lies the next magical piece of the Basilysk puzzle. I give you three words – HE. CAN. PLAY! If there is one element of ‘Emergence’ that you cannot ignore, it is Perrin’s lead work. We are talking about the arrival of a phenomenal shredder here – a guitarist that, projecting forward, could take the mantel of a Mustaine or Skolnick, such is his fluidity and precision. Awash with wildly psychotic, lightning-fast flurries of high end notes yet bathed in a melodic inference, Perrin’s signature is all over his band’s new album and with repeated listens you can feel his presence solidify everything the band lays down on this 8 track affair. It must be said that Perrin’s foil, Luke Gray, also pays his dues here with some frenetic rhythm guitar work and also trades licks with Perrin on a couple of tracks. Other standouts include the highly combustible aforementioned ‘Sinners….’ single which leads straight into a face-melting thrash laden ‘Sad State of the Arts’ and track six, the hyper-groove laden riff-fest that is ‘Fire (In the Temple of Sacrifice)’.
In embracing many extreme styles, it is safe to suggest that Basilysk’s vocal approach and ferocious mood offers up their ‘Black Metal’ influences – vocally, Josh Perrin channels plenty of Emperor/Ihsahn meets Dissection/Nodtveidt elements throughout – throw in some lower register Morbid Angel/Dave Vincent phrasing – scornful and unrelenting in every aspect of his delivery, Perrin’s ability to pull this off live whilst also shredding like a beast will be a sight to behold.
If there was to be any finger pointing at all, you could accuse Basilysk for, perhaps, stoking their irons in too many fire. The question being, what sort of band are they trying to be? Yet, I don’t really feel they need to change too much at all other than trim some fat off a couple of bloated compositions. I love their ambition, the diversity and complexity of what they do – and with the abundance of ideas displayed on ‘Pre-Birth-Karma-Afterlife’ I am convinced that this band is only going to improve. The fact that they’re already sensational makes them a frightening prospect moving forward.
Wrapped up in a killer production – stealthlike and sinewy in its delivery, ‘Emergence’ stands as one of the strongest and more creative Death Metal albums of the year. Such is the vigor, power and longevity of this album – even in late February I’m willing to bet this is going to stick around in my playlist for quite some time and as stated earlier, even make those all-important end of year lists down the track. Watch this name folks, Basilysk is going places. Highly recommended. 9/10 KMaN
9/10 Epic Storm
**Please support the underground! It’s vital to the future of our genre.**