Jethro de Beer, the creative force behind “Be Not Betrayed” (SkyBurnsBlack Records) and “Bismoth”, strikes me as a thinker and a fighter. The spirit of his struggle, documented online, is captured for me in the title of that Marilyn Manson / Sneakerpimps collaboration, “Long Hard Road Out of Hell”. Quoting music from a movie may look like I’m making light of a troubling subject, but no. It is as when Paul writes to the Ephesians: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (6:12). It is clear to me that extreme metal seduces the listener ever downward, and once he/she has developed a taste for its tonal palette, it becomes difficult to take anything else seriously. I returned to an interview with Pilgrim, of Crimson Moonlight where he argues for blackened liturgical metal, and while the accepted view holds that black metal can’t be Christian, he says that “… it can be anything but neutral and lukewarm.” (http://bravewords.com/features/crimson-moonlight-blackened-liturgy). I have this impression when I listen to “Psalmic Peace”.
“Waters To Dust” is set against a bleak, frostbitten backdrop and I’m immediately taken in by a gravelly voice that whispers a precis of Psalm 106. I enjoy the thin, razor-like quality of the guitars, and this is where it becomes interesting for me; sombre instrumentation, yet lyrically hopeful. When I listen to “The Lamp of Your Body” by “Be Not Betrayed”, it shares sonic qualities with “O, Majestic Winter” – for me, an altogether more experimental take on unblack metal. “Psalmic Peace”, while raw, is well produced. I enjoy the placement of atmospheric elements within tracks, and find that I can discern each instrument – vocal, melodic and rhythmic – in the mix. While Bismoth is a side project, it is by no means an artistic afterthought. Jethro juxtaposes wall of sound with plaintive solo, distorted intensity with bell-like clarity. The gravelly whisper also becomes a throaty rattle from time to time, complimenting the mood in the music. While drum blasts propel some songs, there are other moments – in a song, or from song to song – where the listener is guided towards introspection. I find that with “Inner Sanctuary”. It communicates being at rest, sheltered.
When birdsong shares guitar melody, I usually become weary. Often, my sense is that a sample was gleaned from a library and used as a filler but here, on “Perfect Peace”, its inclusion makes sense. What would be neat is if the ambience were local (as in South African), but only the composer could reveal that.
Too soon the seven songs on this debut release are over. It is an album that I will return to for its mood and intensity, and for its passionate interpretation of Psalms.
It scores 9/10.
Written by Karakul
1. Waters to Dust
2. The Great Congregation
4. Inner Sanctuary
5. Perfect Peace
6. Earth Made Still
Jethro de Beer (vocals, all instruments) Label: Independent
“The Road” (EP, 2018)
“Psalmic Peace” (Full-length, 2018)
Download “Psalmic Peace” here.