Terra Tenebrosa – The Reverses

Terra Tenebrosa stand for atmospherically dense and hauntingly creepy avant-garde metal from Scandinavia. The Reverses is their third album and sees the band continuing down their dark and obscure path.

Terra Tenebrosa is a swedish avant-garde metal project from that operates with an anonymous line-up, but does have some ties to swedish post-hardcore band Breach. Breach was active during the years 1993 to 2002 and released albums such as It’s Me God (1997) and Venom (1999) that garnered the band a small but nonetheless devoted following. The project came into existence in 2009 and released its debut album The Tunnels in 2011, followed by their sophomore album The Purging in 2013.

Despite the very claustrophobic, dark, and invasive atmosphere of their music the band’s first two albums didn’t quite manage to grab my attention, but Terra Tenebrosa has always been a very interesting band to me, so I decided to give their latest effort, The Reverses, a listen. Again I was met with the, at times, crushingly loud yet perfidious atmosphere and vague obscurity of their sound. I think this time around the band struck a much better balance between the metallic, active parts and the quiet, atmospheric sections, since that was one of my biggest gripes with their previous album. Although atmospherically dense and well crafted, The Purging didn’t leave much of an impression on me on the musical side of things, something Terra Tenebrosa mostly remedied on the The Reverses.

The catchy, hypnotizing rhythms on some of the tracks of this album are definitely a great addition to the band’s sound. Songs like Ghost at the End of the Rope, The End is Mine to Ride and Where Shadows Have Teeth come along with very stoic riffing, backed by stomping, pounding drums and slowly draw you into the strange and otherworldly atmosphere created by the layered vocals and effects, the latter being something that Terra Tenebrosa have always done well. Layers of screeching, screaming, and vile vocals along dark ambient sounds, paired with reverb and distortion effects are a simple but surprisingly effective mixture to achieve the band’s signature atmosphere that has been consistent on all of their albums so far.

I am still impressed by how genuinely eerie Terra Tenebrosa manage to sound. Even the slower tracks on this album are a fair bit more captivating this time, with songs like Marmorisation and Exuvia bringing in the doom along with their “slow-and-low” sound. Marmorisation starts off with some really bleak guitar chords and turns into this very ritualistic sounding, six-minute piece with a heavy emphasis on the atmospheric effects that hover over the slow drumming and layered riffing. Exuvia starts off in a similar fashion, but keeps building and swelling before it’s cut off by a quiet section with some synths and creepy clean vocals.

The album closer, Fire Dances, is one of the longest tracks Terra Tenebrosa has released so far and it’s unfortunately also one of the weaker moments of this album for me. It just feels like the kind of repetitive playstyle the band adapts on this album that focusses on fleshing out a certain idea rather than developing it into a specific direction doesn’t work out on such a lengthy composition and rather makes it feel like it drags on a bit.

Another gripe I have with The Reverses is that the mix can be painfully loud at times, especially on the cymbals. A side effect of that is that the music ends up mashing up a bit in a few places.

Overall however, Terra Tenebrosa delivered a third album with some great highlights that stand above the really solid foundation laid by the rest of the album. The Reverses is definitely one of the more interesting avant-garde albums of this year so far and I like how it presents itself with hypnotizing, stomping rhythms clad in a guise of oppressive horror.

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