Petrychor - Effigies and Epitaphs
Self Release
Folk/Black Metal
6 songs (53:07)
Release year: 2011
Official Website
Reviewed by Charles
The Dryad EP situated Petrychor- the black metal project of virtuosic Californian folk guitarist Tad Piecka- firmly on the outskirts of the US scene. Its weirdly uplifting harmonic progressions seemed to take the black-ish ideas of the usual Cascadian suspects to a whole new level of non-misanthropy, and its immersive exploration of acoustic interludes meant that its folk influences had a loving authenticity that set it some way apart. Effigies and Epitaphs expands and diversifies the sound of that EP into an album which, for all its difficult elements- and this can sometimes be a highly challenging record- amply rewards perseverance on the part of the listener.

The first thing to note is that this is a record of wild contrasts (Piecka claims in one interview to have drawn inspiration from the American avant-garde composer John Cage’s juxtapositions of noise and silence). Long passages are dominated by nothing but Piecka’s often captivating acoustic guitar pieces, from the enigmatic campfire folk that opens In Rememberance, to the sombre and soothing fluttering that opens Of Grandest Majesties and the almost-flamenco that surfaces later on in that same tune. These passages are often addictive, but they are juxtaposed with sudden explosions of black metal which, situated in this context, are like being woken from a summertime lakeside snooze by repeated kicks to the head. One obvious parallel to draw, then, is Kentucky’s iconic (in some circles) Panopticon, and for sure, Petrychor’s sound can be similarly jarring in its tendency to switch instantaneously from one extreme to the other.

But that comparison doesn't entirely stand up, because the album has an enigmatic streak a mile wide. Once the ears are properly adjusted, the black metal sections begin to envelop and entwine the listener to an even greater degree than the acoustic ones. The warmth of Dryad is retained in the emotive, wistfully melodic post-rock approach of tunes like Subjugated and Abused, where Alcest is evoked as a comparison as much as anything from the American scene. But paradoxically it’s in the depth and subtlety wrung from the more extreme passages that Effigies and Epitaphs really takes the sound of Dryad to new places. Beneath Highway and Street initially adopts the same bleary, fuzzy blasting that characterised much of the EP, but rather than an end in itself this sound is a sort of palette in which different shadings can be experimented with. The results are sometimes remarkable. At one point a pulsating piano ostinato and a scratching, distant guitar solo mingle with the blasting austerity, giving it a curious and multifaceted timbre. The track later reaches a hair-raising climax as disjointed industrial noise begins to imprints itself chaotically over the sound like a hyperactive Nine Inch Nails. The conspicuously short (at only three minutes) Seared, Sundered sees Petrychor cultivating an unexpected savagery to rival the most bile-flecked works of Leviathan or Krieg, with ferociously fast blasting underpinning a guitar sound given a deeply unpleasant edge by its cracklingly distorted tone.

Petrychor’s approach to black metal is unhurried, experimental, and addictive; the kind of sound a listener could get lost in. If it is considered as a work of ‘post-black metal’ then it leaves records like deafheaven’s Road to Judah in the shade by simple virtue of the emotional range encapsulated within it. But that maligned neologism does not begin to do it justice: this isn’t a weird perversion of ‘proper’ black metal. It is naturalistic and introverted music, just as true black metal ought to be.

Killing Songs :
In Rememberance, Beneath Highway and Streat, Seared, Sundered
Charles quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Petrychor that we have reviewed:
Petrychor - Makrokosmos reviewed by Charles and quoted 75 / 100
Petrychor - Dryad reviewed by Charles and quoted no quote
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