Hailing from Laitila in Finland, Mørketida have just released their debut album ‘Panphage Mysticism’ through the underground Black Metal label Werewolf Records. Guitarist Sol Schwarz and drummer Nagafir Devraha released a demo with their split-up project Evil Rites in 2010, and the 2012 demo of their next project Mørketida already included an earlier instrumental version of the track Invoking the Seventh Moon. After the ear-piercingly shrill Intro in which distorted strings seem to cut the air with a thin blade of soundwaves, the album starts with a reworked version of this slow-paced and meditative piece showcasing a classic lo-fi sound and well-flowing motif variations. We find ourselves absorbed into a hypnotising and atmospheric build-up evoking Eastern European Black Metal aesthetics as in for instance Mgła‘s nihilist soundscapes. The hoarse vocals seem to hit a perfect bittersweet spot between darkness and shrillness, and the convincing flow of the not intensely variable instrumentals makes the song perfect for a darkly ritualistic live setting.

The next track Witchcraft works with a similarly slow pace but impresses by its evocation of heart-wrenching darkness and emptiness. The soundscape appears reminiscent of vast dark forests, which goes hand in hand with the lyrics revolving around a hex ritual at a bonfire. The mystical atmosphere is topped off by high synth melodies in the background, and the extra dark vocals remind somewhat of Inquisition.

Serpent’s Grail starts with a hit on the drums and lots of destructive energy exuded by powerfully direct guitars. The signature slow-paced and minimal drums establish a stone-solid foundation for the trance-inducing mood created by effective riff compositions that initially seem to stand the test of repetition. Subtle organ effects towards the end are a nifty move but the ending on an awkwardly short organ note appears somewhat randomly cut-off; plus the song ends up feeling a bit too drawn-out overall.

With Throne of Unseen sporting pretty much the same tempo with different chords, the listener might get somewhat skeptical regarding the monotonous impression this produces; the force of the vocals on this track saves the situation to some extent.  On top of that, the atmosphere is convincingly threatening and ties in with the lyrical themes revolving around lunacy, cosmic occultism and destruction. Generally, this track would have benefitted from some more vocals in order to counteract the very repetitive and slow instrumentals – but it probably depends on the listener whether the mood of the track is perceived as narcotic or hypnotising. The bellowing vocals towards the end go right into the marrow and produce some variation with the more piercingly clear instrumentals.

Next up is the title track Panphage Mysticism, starting off with a nice climax built up by a soughing guitar and deliberately unorthodox notes stumbling up and down scales. The stumble seems to get minimally awkward once the drums set in but we quickly move into a lethargically slow rhythm reminding of the hand of a wind-up metronome swaying back and forth. Whereas the vocals are mostly minimal, the most unique feature of this track is the hollow and tinny bass sound surprisingly appearing out of nowhere: Compared to the otherwise lo-fi sound environment it floats in, it appears strangely clear. Whereas the rhythmic intricacy of its melodies are intriguing, they do not completely mask the stifling monotony of the guitars towards the end of the track.

Temple of Prevailing Darkness works with a crisply distorted sound that is somewhat less washed-out than many of the other lo-fi passages on this album. Soon we find ourselves in the fastest shredding and hammering passage of the entire record; in this case, the monotony seems planned and convincing, especially as we lapse out of the predominant rhythm every now and again for a few bars of half-tempo drum work. Again, this number seems a bit too drawn out and somewhat relies too much on instrumental repetition until it pulls itself into a bit more variation including subtle organs and a truly demon-summoning voice towards the very end.

The Outro brings us back to the painfully distorted strings from the very start again, with the difference that are now more strongly blended into guitar distortion and reverb. The metallic scratching sound establishes a notion of threatening and obscure space and leaves the listener intellectually stimulated. While Intro and Outro go well together and create a frame for the longer tracks in between, a more coherent sound connecting both the frame and its contents would have created an even more menacing whole. Nevertheless, friends of obscure and cosmic Black Metal should definitely give this promising debut a listen and let themselves be transported into diabolical bleakness.

Pick up your copy of Panphage Mysticism, out now via Werewolf Records, HERE!