(Copyright © 2020 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
Isolate (2015), 7/10
Absence (2016), 6.5/10
The Density Parameter (2018), 6.5/10
Ghost Condensate (2019), 6/10
The Degenerate Era (2020), 5/10

Australian duo Mesarthim rapidly became the main act of atmospheric black metal, following in the footsteps of Burzum and Darkspace. Their debut Isolate (2015) has the shrieks of black metal but also psychedelic-tinged melodies and especially keyboards, lots of keyboards, both piano and synths. The stately classical-sounding riffs of the keyboards are what makes their music special in the world of black metal. The twelve-minute Osteopenia buries a moving piano melody deep inside a massive shoegazing guitar distortion, and later deep inside the blastbeats and shrieks of the second half (unfortunately the counterpoint by the Disney-esque synth line and by the poppy guitar line are rather tacky). The piano figure, soon picked up by the synth, is more upfront at the beginning of Interstellar, dueling with the equally strong distorted melody of the guitar. The latter seems to triumph after the hoarse singing begins, but instead it's the piano figure that drives the coda. Abyss begins in a more frantic manner, with the piano's heroic motif on top, but this time the real driver of the melody is the shrieking voice that intones its most desperate chant just when the blastbeats rage on. Another memorable piano melody is not fully exploited in the closer, Isolate.

After the ten-minute single Suffocate (2016), where the pomp of the synth collides with the desperate shrieks of the singer, and the minor EP Spire (2016), with two shorter pieces, one being Spire itself (a very minor reenactment of the same format), the four-song EP Pillars (2016) delivered another classic, the 13-minute Pillars (martial tempo, poppy guitar solo, folkish synth interlude, soaring coda worthy of latter-day Pink Floyd). The album .- -... ... . -. -.-. . (2016), whose title "Absence" is written in Morse code, and which is about the same duration as Pillars, sounded like an almost exact copy of the debut (and of the EPs) except for the lack of truly impressive synth lines. The burden of driving melody and pathos rests mostly on the vocals in 3 (spelled ...-- in Morse code), and the singer does a powerful job amid lulling waves of the guitar distortion. 6 (or -....) has the one majestic synth melody of the album, wrapped around a twin guitar melody, and mirrored by the singer's debauched shouts. The song gets a little lost in the synth solo (that sounds like a Christmas carol) but returns like a tidal wave at the end. That's the heroic song of the second album.

Then came the 21-minute piece of the EP The Great Filter (2016), with even funeral overtones but mostly irrelevant, the 19-minute piece of the EP Type III (2016), mostly tedious and confused, perhaps in the attempt to diversify with more cinematic segments, the three-song EP Presence (2017), that includes the almost danceable Presence, and the 16-minute piece of the EP Coma Wall (2018), which tries a bit too hard to sound poppy. Despite their preference for the EP format, Pillars is the only EP of their career that was a major addition to the canon.

The third album, The Density Parameter (2018), contains loud, hysterical and lavish performances like the ten-minute Pi, in which the music doesn't quite match the ferocious shrieks but even includes a symphonic choir, and the ten-minute Transparency, a much more impressive attempt at matching the grandeur of Broadway showtunes and epic film soundtracks. The album especially contains their most romantic fantasia yet, the twelve-minute Fragmenting, where all the elements honed over the years came to maturity: the massive distortion interacting with the shrieking vocals and the soaring keyboard riffs, the solemn rhythms coexisting with the blastbeats. There is even a sequencer-style interlude that flirts with disco-music before the final apotheosis.

Ghost Condensate (2019) is divided into two 20-minute pieces. The sound is generally slicker and crisper, which makes the guitar distortion less prominent. Now that the tempo shifts, the interludes and the solos have become more refined and more varied it is easier to see similarities between Mesarthim's method and old-fashioned prog-rock. The main difference is the intensity, the heritage of black metal. The melodic element is less relevant than the dramatic dynamics. In the second half this becomes more evident because so many of its 20 minutes are spent in detours and there doesn't seem to be a central leitmotif.

The Degenerate Era (2020) is mainly a pretext for the three-movement 14-minute Laniakea, another mutating prog-rock suite with romantic solos, atmospheric interludes and magniloquent finale.

The EP Planet Nine (2020) adds two lengthy electronic-heavy pieces: Planet Nine and Burial.

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