Album Title: 
Release Date: 
Friday, November 11, 2022
Review Type: 

[review for an older release (November 2022) yet of such high qualitative level]

Estrangement is the name of a bizarre project that was formed in 2010 by some JS. He’s the guy behind Vita Dolorosa too, and part of the resurrected Lord Kaos line-up. Anyway, throughout the years, this act did release just one demo (Belong Beneath, edited on tape in June 2013 via Aurora Australis Records) and a split-EP with Japan’s finest Begräbnis (September 2014, via Weird Truth Productions). Then… silence…

Until November 2022. JS had written some new stuff throughout the years, and he started recording this material as from 2019. It got mixed and mastered via Last Gasp Recordings. At some point, he signed to the wonderful Aesthetic Death roster (the best choice!) to have this newly recorded material released decently. The result of that collaboration, ingeniously called Disfigurementality (not kidding!), offers over one hour of unusual yet intriguing Aural Art. The album got released in an edition of 500 copies, i.e. a jewel-case with inclusion of a ten-page booklet. It comes with somewhat weird and mind-blowing cover artwork, done by a certain Anton Pulvirenti, yet also the visual art at the inlay is of an amazing fairness. Layout, by the way, was taken care of by Stijn ‘SVC’ Van Cauter.

This time, JS did not perform everything himself (dixit the booklet that accompanies the CD: ‘vocals, guitars, bass, drums, percussion, cello, keys, singing bowls, balalaika’), yet he was assisted by three other musicians: Euterpe (‘flute, bass flute, tin whistle, vocals’), Ligamincer (‘double bass, cello, violin, keys’), and Czar (‘violin, percussion’). And their involvement is of great importance to the general sound of this album.

The importance of those instruments in combination with the outsider-thought song-writing shows as from the intro Destitution Stench: baritone voices (and icy screams towards the end) and different acoustic strings (double bass, violin, cello) are gathered into an alienated sonic experiment, that sounds as captivating as estranged. With Detritivore, we enter the realms of Funeral Doom: hypnotic guitar leads (initially with a grandiose old-Ahab-vibe), contrasting rhythms, wretched screams and growls, fine-tuned yet monumental drum patterns, you know. Yet things turn more and more unique, when at first bewitching flutes enter, and very soon later a very low-tuned contrabass. Every minute, things evolve, with flamenco-tuned guitars (balalaika?), double-voiced choirlike chants, additional passages with keyboards, an interplay of enlightening acoustic excerpts interacting with heavy-loaded funereal parts, raw fast-paced blackened eruptions, and so on. In nine minutes, this track shows so many angles, yet still the cohesion exceeds mediocrity. Even after many, many listens, this piece (and the whole album, to be honest) reveals a complexity that is both progressive as well-structured.

And so does Disfigurementality continue: with acoustic interludes that exhale a Baroque / Classical or a Flamenco-laden attitude, with avantgarde experiments, with some harsh outbursts (enjoy, for example, that sulfur-injected eruption of barbaric evilness during the second half of the very lengthy lullaby Doppelganger!), with melancholic parts and funereal nostalgia, with injections of raw Atmospheric Black Metal, Doom Death, Gothic Doom, DSBM, and Blackened (Funeral) Doom Metal, with dedicated and somewhat subtle, strongly temerarious hints of My Dying Bride, Ahab, Thergothon, Evoken, Esoteric, Suffer Yourself and Skepticism, with ritualistic parts (including throat singing and shamanistic percussions, like the almost undefinable Pagan Metal hymn Fire Voice), with both theatrical grotesquery and enigmatic integrity, with a huge scala on voices, with that flute adding a touch of Folk-laden elegance, … It’s a one-hour journey through corners of the psyche unexplored yet, like a confrontation with the Inner Eye that suddenly sees things that seemed eternally and clandestinely hidden before.

In more than thirty-five years of writing reviews, this one must be one of the most difficult ones to define, to describe. I should analyze the whole experience step by step, yet that would bring me too far, for every handful of seconds things to alternate and morph / dismorph. Giving a general description would not be fair either, for this album brings such post-imaginative grandiosity that trespasses, and includes, an amalgam of related yet contrasting aural niches. With certainty, Disfigurementality asks for endurance and bravery, yet with each listen Estrangement’s Funereal-Flamenca-Nuclear-Jazz-Fusion-End-Of-World-Music  (what’s in a name…) gets better, richer, more abundant and captivating. I am gonna press the ’play’-button a 66th time, I guess…