Strigoi is the unsettling extreme metal project that you need in your life. This enigmatic outfit may be called blackened death doom or a variety of other terms. Strigoi‘s simmering cauldron also includes elements of sludge, crust, and so forth. However, it is important to remember that Strigoi is impossible to pigeonhole because their music transcends categories. This incredibly unique entity definitely deserves much more popularity than it has received. After hearing the EP Bathed in a Black Sun, we know that our readers will be forced to agree.
Strigoi emerged in 2018 after the Paradise Lost legend Greg Mackintosh laid Vallenfyre to rest. (Vallenfyre was an effort that Mackintosh started as a means of honoring his deceased father.) Mackintosh originally founded Strigoi as a duo with ex-Extreme Noise Terror‘s Chris Casket. Thus, Bathed in a Black Sun features Mackintosh on vocals and guitar and Casket on bass. This pair of evil geniuses is joined by their other current bandmates: ex-Carcass‘ Ben Ash slays on guitar, and Paradise Lost‘s Guido Zima handles drums.
Bathed in a Black Sun showcases material that hails from the recording sessions for Strigoi‘s sophomore album, Viscera (2022). The title track, which serves as Bathed in a Black Sun‘s opening, is actually Viscera‘s seventh song. This composition, the EP’s longest and slowest, captivates with its moon-freezing riffs, eerie bass, confident drums, and so forth. In addition to Mackintosh‘s mesmerizing vocals, we hear a bewitching female voice in the funereal background. The aura is extraordinarily haunting and even exotic. “Bathed in a Black Sun” bulldozes you as it exudes steady aggression and power.
“The Grotesque” and “A Spear of Perfect Grief” were actually included on the second disc of a special vinyl edition of Viscera. The former is a delightfully horrifying number (“Suicide beckons to open the vein, a sin for the poisonous well of platitude and shame…”) that literally threatens to force-feed listeners ashes, and the latter delivers highly pleasurable solos and wicked groove. “Beautiful Stigmata,” which makes its premiere here, stands between these two and can be described as an extremely brief yet glorious assault to the senses. The EP’s conclusion, “The Construct of Misery,” a killer little gem with dazzling guitar work, was actually unveiled earlier this year as part of the Decibel Flexi Disc Series.
Bathed in a Blackened Sun only lasts for a little over 13 minutes, but that is quite sufficient for a work of this quality. It is remarkably cohesive, balanced, and tight. If we are to describe the EP as a whole, we must confirm that the instrumentation is excellent all around. From start to finish, the guitars and bass are entrancing, and the drums are equally magnetic. Yes, the charismatic Greg Mackintosh morphs into a chthonic deity on Bathed in a Black Sun. His commanding vocals are all too effective. Fortunately, the production, which was handled by Jaime Gómez Arellano and Strigoi, is just perfect for the content. It is so well executed that you forget to analyze it.
The otherworldly Bathed in a Black Sun certainly provokes a visceral response, yet it is also an elevated offering. No, it might not be easy for some metalheads to admit, but today’s scene abounds with tropes, gimmicks, and cheesy texts. Strigoi is the antithesis of everything that elitists find wrong with many modern bands. Their lyrics are poetic and cerebral. Despite the EP’s passion, muscle, and brutality, it is also quite beautiful in the right ways. Mackintosh‘s work always has a certain refined charm no matter how savage it may sound upon first play. Thus, Bathed in a Black Sun is the type of opus that keeps you returning for more.
Indeed, Bathed in a Black Sun proves that the great sorcerer Mackintosh, of course, continues to act as a tireless innovator. He never ceases to conquer new musical horizons. In fact, I would call Mackintosh one of the music world’s most intriguing creators; he is certainly one of metal’s most influential figures.
We invite you to observe the huge stylistic gulf between Bathed in a Black Sun and Mackintosh‘s debut with Paradise Lost‘s Nick Holmes under the Host banner, IX — one of the best and catchiest full-lengths of 2023. The two releases could hardly be any more dissimilar, yet Bathed in a Black Sun is just as great. Oddly enough, as a result, these offerings serve as perfect complements to one another. We look forward to Paradise Lost‘s Icon 30 this December. Given Icon‘s nature, that will obviously be a very different record as well, but it is bound to prove highly rewarding. Again, we mention this because it demonstrates Mackintosh‘s versatility, making Bathed in a Black Sun even more of a cause for wonder.