Thermohaline - Maelström
Experimental Black Metal
6 songs (51:41)
Release year: 2021
Official Bandcamp
Reviewed by Goat
Surprise of the month

A pan-global conspiracy comprised of three individuals (Argentine, Portuguese, and Belgian) each with their own obscure, interesting black metal projects, discovering Thermohaline feels a little overwhelming at first, like stumbling across ancient Templar plots and realising that the rabbit hole runs deeper than you thought possible. Yet even if you end your curiosity at Thermohaline's oceanic-themed industrial and atmospheric black metal rumble, you've discovered enough to keep yourself happy. Despite a less than perfect production, despite programmed drum loops forming the spine of the music's rhythm section, this is still an excellent, very listenable album simply bursting with personality. It feels oddly timeless in that it could have come from any era of our still young subgenre, be it the late 90s initial flourishing, the 00s avant-garde, or more recent post-black experimentation. At moments Thermohaline are raw and rabid, galloping shrieks and blasts, and at others they throw in breakbeats and mumbled spoken vocals like some internet soundcloud rapper (if that is not already an outdated reference!) and then wild lead guitar and crunchy tech-riffing - as on this example, all in the same track, Dark Corners of the Ocean.

You could fill a review such as this with the wildest, wackiest moments, such as a brief but oddly hilarious accordion break on Adamastor, itself laden with glitchy electronic and industrial bells and whistles. Yet Thermohaline clearly have a real respect for the building blocks of black metal, the blasts and riffs, the shrieks and atmospheric trills and thrills, and it's that which ultimately makes Maelström such a delight to seasoned ears. There's plenty of atmospheric sturm und drang, such as the plentiful sea samples on opener Obra Dinn, yet the real meat of the album is to be found once it launches into hyperspeed blasting, backing keyboards providing a semi-orchestral grandeur and a genuinely listenable melodic overture to the chaotic metal maelstrom beneath. This holds true throughout the album, comprised mostly of eight-minute plus pieces that announce their presence quickly and then stick around long enough to make a serious impact thanks to the strength of the black metal core that runs throughout. As such, sidelines such as the shimmering dip into funeral doom and then darkwave on Sirens or the captivating and progressive Shipwrecked feel earned and effective rather than extraneous avant-garditties, especially thanks to the skilful songwriting which blends everything together well.

And that's true for every single track here, each taking a different and unique route through this watery world. Even though the drums are programmed (and an immediate benefit to the band overall would be a human drummer capable of adding just that extra touch of variety) they are programmed well, with plenty of varied moments as well as the expected blastbeats. And perhaps there are a few too many spoken word passages, and the production could be much better. Yet for a self-released black metal project, Thermohaline have created something truly special, unique yet with vibes ranging from early Ephel Duath to Dødheimsgard and with much promise for the future once the rough edges are smoothed. Even now, though, this Maelström deserves the ears of those who love black metal's more out-there moments.

Killing Songs :
Obra Dinn, Sirens, Shipwrecked
Goat quoted 82 / 100
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