Caligari Records have been a favorite of mine since some time back. Always on top with new releases, always on point with the darker themed musical styles (mainly metal) – everything is allowed if it is contained within these limits – and they don’t do a half-arsed job at it. The proprietor of the label was kind enough to send a physical edition of the release about to be reviewed, and we’re glad to finally be able to listen through and critique an item from their discography.
Unfortunately to our own dismay, the case was slightly damaged with what seems to be small cuts on the front of it. The CD itself was not damaged but the plastic attachment which keeps the CD in place was in half, thus there was no use for it at all – thanks to our wonderful shipping company PostNord – who seems to take much joy in making sure that shipments arrive as damaged as possible, unless packed very tight and secure.
The aesthetic aspect of Personae Ingratae / Proselytes
Aesthetically the whole package, despite it being a standard jewelcase, is really magnificent to look at. The booklet comes with lyrics for each song, and at the end of it (pictured) there’s a very well-drawn image of a man which could resemble any statue from ancient Greece, holding a rope which yields a perfect representation of the band’s name. Just beside the man is a tightly knit rope, where the words “Venerate the rope! Fear The Rope!” is written beneath it. Makes for a very sinister impression.
The ‘decorative‘ aspect of this release is what makes it, though the fonts are somewhat off-putting except on the front of the CD where it almost seems to be sketched out rather then digitally put there – even though, in the end, part of that dimension as well. You know very well what kind of genre it ought to be by looking at it, even though you might not be able to place the sub-genres, which is a slightly ambiguous touch that makes it even better. Shows how much can be done aesthetically without the release having to be more then a jewelcase.
The musical aspect of Personae Ingratae / Proselytes
Rope Sect as a band is a trio, consisting of ‘Inmesher‘ (guitars, drums & vocals), ‘Harbinger‘ (bass) and ‘Gaarentwynder‘ (additional guitars). The release is a compilation, a combination of their first EP released by Caligari Records on cassette, “Personae Ingratae“, and their double-single “Proselytes” released on vinyl by Iron Bonehead Productions. We want to make it perfectly clear that we haven’t heard these releases in their physical format, therefore we can’t do any comparisons and if we had we wouldn’t any way because it would only make sense as that instead.
“Fallen Nation” starts off with an ominously sounding German quotation in sound sampled from somewhere, heck knows where. Then what could be described as some crossover between metal and punk, but without the -core in it. Somehow it reminds us of a better, less outdrawn version, maybe heavier in certain aspects – later Katatonia. If they had mingled with Jawbreaker, but without the cheesy lyrics. It is hard-hitting, straight up emotional and there is where the first comparison is drawn, out of a sense of nostalgia and not so much musically – even though some of it is similar, in terms of melody.
It feels weird that a first track on a release can be so addicting. A perfect cocktail of nihilistic tendencies together with a dim, bright light of hope in the end of the tunnel. The drums are muddy, distorted and together with the guitar work and baseline create a malformed, rowdy atmosphere – which is then smacked together with clean vocals. The vocalist is really talented, he pulls off such an emotional but assertive tone in the way he articulates each word, lyrically.
The second song “Tarantist” ups the instruments a notch in terms of how the solos, the riffs and the overall rhythm is concerned. Sure, much of it is similar with the first song, but it has a more deathrock-ish vibe over the atmosphere, perfect for a December’s evening like this. We find ourselves digging more to this song, even though the first one had its perfectly laden harmonics. The psychedelic edge in some of the riffs are absolutely glorious in all their simplicity – they manage to bridge to the chorus in a down-tempo – to maniacal uptempo after a few seconds, so effortlessly.
Even though it makes no sense in text at all, the most powerful lyrical content in this song is when the singer calmly but ominously proclaims: “We’re gonna die – why?“, it hits so close to home that it almost frightens. It is so existential in a beautiful way – yet it gives you an unobjectionable push into the grim realities of life, which isn’t as romantically charged as the notion of living forever either as a memory in the past, or resurrected in the future.
“Pretty Life” heads in a different, more downtempo way that has a lot in common with atmospheric black metal, instead of the punk (and sub-genres of it) overtones that dominate on this record so far. Too bad that it is so repetitive and doesn’t really cast a good light on the vocalist as it has done with the uptempo, more aggressive songs before this one. Sure, some moments are great as when the more ‘acoustically’-oriented passages that add an upswing to an otherwise not that interesting song.
Some facets of it can be intriguing to listen to but it is not what we’re expecting after we’ve listened to Rope Sect, we’re sorry to say that. If anything, the abrupt ending is in a class of itself, since this song doesn’t need to be more outdrawn and killed right away. Don’t get it wrong, it is not a bad song per se, but it is an OK song in comparison with the other two which set the standard very high.
“King Of The Night” remind us, in a good way, what the commercially successful band Ghost would’ve been if they hadn’t sold out from the get go. Rope Sect is like the better version of what the ideal would’ve been with that band, even though it was dead from the get go, really. A really trashing song from the get go which includes the better parts of good death metal, with the melodically oriented stance that actually, by now, defines their music for us.
Not to mention the classic rock’n’roll vibe coming out of the second chorus, the solos from the guitars are fantastic. They also slap the darker atmosphere on it so that it doesn’t flip out and go into full deranged death’n’roll. In this song comes another memorable line, which also touches emotionally through how the singer delivers it vocally – “We found the gallows sling in the light / A lost reversal of fortune“. What a great line lyrically. It gives off a very subliminal message as it goes through your brain, an ambiguity not easily taken away.
On this compilation, “Recess” feels like the dividing line between “Personae Ingratae” and “Proselytes“, even though it originally wasn’t. A good piece of death-doom metal but with much better melodies then there generally is in that crossover genre. They are really accentuated and heightened in this short song. An uproar of the most desperate anguish, but without the cheesiness that would be attached to it otherwise with bad lyrics, so it is actually good that they went full instrumental for once. Though it wouldn’t of been any trouble for the singer to lay his unique touch on it as well, had it not been.
“Ochlesis” is the longest track on the release, and feels like a combination of all the good in the first few songs and the otherworldly nature of their atmosphere. Simple but ingenious riffs lay the foundation of the choruses, as one is transported between all possible sub-genres and back again. From metal to post-punk, doom metal to gothic rock. There’s also an downtempo part that is fanatically great – they leave room to each instrument, and let the different textures blend together through silence and noise – completing the sound in a vividly imaginable perfect scenario.
Though the first part shines the brightest, as that is their stronger side, it is accompanied by an even heavier laden barrage of the finest metal you could imagine. Nothing is compromised when they get to do their own thing, whatever that could be called in a summary. Though, as written in the first paragraphs about this song, it is clear that it is a combination of all the best elements so far from this record.
“Death Is Your Lover” is by far the roughest sounding track so far, having more dark riffs then ever before. The title alone suggests what you’re about to hear when turning it on. The drumming also goes into different riffs, as it almost wants to go into full blast-beat as soon as possible, but is hindered by the fact that it is as gloomy as doom metal can be when it is at its best – in combination with the psychedelic, slow and hard-hitting aspects of that certain genre.
Little bits of pieces in this song are good, but together it doesn’t stand out that much in comparison with other songs. There are different ambiance that could’ve been adjusted a bit more, and the singing gets a bit dull after parts of it, but without a doubt the lyrical content of this song is one of the best. Especially the repetitiveness of it all, which lulls one into uncertainty.
“Rattenkönig” is so pleasurable to listen to. It holds up great in all aspects and is except the first two songs, “Fallen Nation” and “Tarantist“, which in itself makes it a great song. The lyrics flow so well, as if the vocalist have lived what is described himself. As if it is recited by a great orator. There’s really nothing more to be said then that it gives off a spiritual feeling when listening to it. Such a great, uncompromising and skilfully made song that it isn’t even funny. Nothing could be done better in it that would make it even more outstanding.
Both “Quietus” and “Proselytes” is if you had inverted the record itself, not that they are identical to the first two songs musically, it is just that they are as great in their own respects. Here, they’ve added a bit more that gives the atmosphere that knife-sharp edge and volatility which some of the other tracks miss out on. The first song mentioned actually contain some blast-beats to our joy, and it is the better one of the two, but both are god-damn impeccable.
Such a great ending to an otherwise more than good compilation of two releases. We could not recommend it more, actually. It is just a shame that it hasn’t gotten more publicity, because this sure is a hidden gem in the Caligari Records discography – despite it being the next-newest release there. If anything, you should really get this CD because nothing beats having the physical item. You can get it digitally and on CD from Caligari Records, stream the release down below to make up your own mind.