I’ve talked pretty extensively about how a lot of bands really get into naming their songs or projects in a way that fits perfectly, whether sonically or thematically. So it’s cool when a band comes along and, almost as a sick joke, decides to do nearly the exact opposite with regards to one of those aforementioned factors. This is what Swiss blackened sludge dick-kickers Rorcal decided to do with their latest album, SILENCE.
Coming off of one of the best metal albums I’ve heard in years, Muladona, I’ve been waiting for this moment for quite a while. The things I saw in Rorcal at that time were things I wanted to see again in the world because they offered a paradoxical respite from waves of torment that seemed to keep crashing on the shores of humanity, or just me personally. I’ve regularly returned to Muladona, and you should too. In reviewing SILENCE, I don’t wanna ask (or answer) if it’s better than that album or not because I don’t think that’s the point. These are, after all, two wholly separate pieces of work that deserve individual attention.
The reasons why SILENCE isn’t a name that fits this album is, if you couldn’t surmise from my clues so far, because this album is loud as fuck, a cacophonous tirade of pain that will surely damage your hearing if you’re too cocky with the headphone volume. I am thankfully not speaking from experience, but the threat is there – protect your hearing, people.
Full disclosure: our pal and fellow writer Eeli had the esteemed pleasure of producing the two music videos embedded in this review. He’s a big Rorcal fan like me so I know he had a blast while putting together these uplifting visuals. Oh, and light strobe effect on both.
What are named quite adequately are these song titles. Bro, listen to these fuckers: “Childhood is a Knife in the Throat”, “Hope is a Cancer”, “Extinguished Innocence”, “No Alleviation, Even in Death”. These titles mirror the dark intrigue the music has to a tee. Let’s single out “Hope is a Cancer” for a minute – what a track, just an absolute bastard of a song with wild black metal melodies and stalwart rhythms swelling the track to a ripping fullness. The thing with Rorcal is they use space very well, almost too well, filling their soundscapes with noise, weight, and a torrential downpour of malaise. Every song is an abject, abyssal spiral and you’re given no way to combat it.
“Early Mourning” deserves a shoutout as the first single and opening track of SILENCE, one that Spartan kicks you in the chest so your own body represents the levels of optimism plummeting by the minute. The song’s just great, packed with ass-blasting riffs and percussion that really pummels the positivity out of you like a piñata. “Childhood is a Knife in the Throat” is appropriately serrated sounding with the guitars, applying black metal riffing while the overall density constricts and suffocates. I think this title is best and refers to how childhood is when you’re lied to the most, given false hope about how you can be anything, kept in the dark from the true nature of man. Some say coddling a child in this way sets them up for a rougher time later in life; dramatically and metaphorically put, it can prematurely kill the child like a knife to the throat – this song is that belief’s soundtrack.
The whole album, every damn song, just has a commitment to punishment on many levels. There’s barely any points of levity and the rare ones that are there feel more like being stranded in a blackened swamp, blinded from seeing corporeal threats close in on all sides and a disembodied hand holds your head under water with the next tsunami of hellish music.
I kind of lied about this album’s title at the beginning, or at least misled. It does have some relation to the thematic trappings this LP puts forth which, and I’m sure this is surprising, doesn’t have the sunniest outlook on things. SILENCE is the aural slitting of the throat of hope, a feeling that deceives us and steers us away from accepting the inevitable nothingness of death, the voidal silence of the end. From the band themselves, ‘Hope is a chimera. It is an illusion that prevents us from embracing an obvious fact however luminous in its inevitability: we will soon be no more. There is no longer any horizon for us, nor any tomorrow…Thus, when the very idea of hope finally disappears, only silence remains.‘ Since most lyrics are nigh impossible to sus out without help, we’re left with only the names and raw instrumentation which is honestly plenty enough. They convey the last ember of hope being stamped out until we’re crumpled over ourselves and dejected like the figure on the cover, a fizzling death of light in our eyes, minds, and hearts as we finally succumb to defeat, except this is one defeat we’re never intended to bounce back from.
With all of that in mind, Rorcal have done an immense job translating that palpable, crushing loss into a 41-minute album. While the band do more than you’d expect to make their cataclysmically heavy music approachable with sturdy, refined song structures and some melodies to dig your fingernails into with panic as you swirl around in an ocean of distress, the album’s final moment is the most memorable with a sudden drop of all sound, finally kicking the chair beneath you to plunge into silence. This is not for the faint of heart, but Rorcal never purported to be anything but – I love them for that. SILENCE is debilitating, depressing, fatiguing, disturbing, leeching, and callously pessimistic. It’s also one of the best metal albums of the year.