I’ve spoken about the relation between one’s musical and personal identities a lot during my WFA banters lately. It has shaped to be a recurring theme for me, mainly because the recent years have seen my musical taste develop into more murky territories when it comes to artistic expression. This basically translates to artists separating themselves from the music to an extent where the art feels like an entity completely of its own on all parameters. I don’t know why, but there’s something appealing in that, being able to convey and immerse oneself into a singular aural world with nothing disrupting it. In addition, I’ve unsurprisingly gravitated strongly towards labels that nurture this kind of focused environment.
One such label is Sentient Ruin Laboratories, with whom I have a one-sided romance with. I’ve praised them numerous times before, during my feature on 8 Hour Animal and the premiere piece for Black Fucking Cancer‘s latest album. The shadowed M running the show has tapped into an underground fountain of gold, seemingly of immeasurable proportions, as he keeps feeding the relative masses the kind of gems only few other people on this Earth are capable of mining, in a constant fashion no less. I’ve been familiar with today’s artist for a long while, but I made the connection between them and Sentient Ruin only when asked to write a song premiere for it earlier this summer. I did get the full album around my filthy earholes back then already, and I knew I simply have to write about it in length over here.
CLAVICVLA is a one-man Italian black ambient/death industrial entity formed by an elusive character known as Ittiel. The reason I opened with the words I did, was of course that the act abides to that sentiment; the music transcends all conventional boundaries, being its own cathartic and unique experience, without the stigma of personal or social media presence. It is all about the art, and as such it is the only thing that matters.
CLAVICVLA‘s latest album, Degeneracy of the 5th Density, was released a week and a half ago by the aforementioned Sentient Ruin and the French Cyclic Law, both of which have backed up the artist throughout its existence (before any language nerds get riled up because I called the artist ‘it’, know that there’s a reason behind that and it should be understood by now). As you may know, we usually run an interview within this feature, but this time the need to include one was rather minute, mostly because of all the aspects listed above, but also because of a fresh interview conducted by Black Metal Daily, which you can read here.
Regardless of whether or not you eyed the link, it’s good to go over the basics. CLAVICVLA is an enigmatic ritualistic vessel translating into existence through one man’s volition to bleed his inner void into reality in order to transgress the border between the known and the unknown; to mold the shapeless into a tangible form, to spawn a sonic oblivion from unfathomable depths, and to first and foremost, offer the listener a catharsis; a mean to purge themselves. It’s perfectly understandable that something like CLAVICVLA is too much for some, but then again, it’s exactly what it needs to be for others.
The act’s debut Arsonist Prophets from 2017 is wildly different from the later works, being an abrasive concoction of atmospherics and rugged black metal. It acts as a starting point yes, but all in all is a way more grating and less-spiritual effort than the rest. While it serves no purpose to go too much into detail with the EP’s contrasting nature, it’s worth mentioning that the third track on it, the nine-minute “Invertio Transfiguratio” was a promise of the later evolution, being an elongated dark ambient track that by essence and production stands out like a nail on the instep. It’s a peculiar addition in the otherwise ultra raw mien, and only makes sense in hindsight. Still, there’s plenty to dig into with Arsonist Prophets, but apart from this one track, there’s next to nothing tying it to the later efforts.
CLAVICVLA‘s debut full-length, the aptly titled Sermons came out in the summer of 2018, and features a revision of the mentioned “Invertio Transfiguratio”, alongside the fact of it being a full-fledged enterprise in haunting and distressing dark ambient topped with signature hiss-like vocals that certainly add no sunshine to the overall mix. The weighty openers “Ma” and “Beelzebub Invocat” carried forth by ominous bell hits are enough to carve deep into the listener’s psyche, completely reverting their vision inwards, and the first time you notice anything else than the murmuring black mire of your soul is when the album comes to an abrupt close on “Abstratio Diaboli”. It’s like waking up after a well-rested night, only with the exception of the rest being an intense scrutiny of one’s own secluded self and the morning being a dark moment in stillness shrouded in apathy and profound rumination.
Sermons is where CLAVICVLA‘s black trek properly starts, and it’s all a descending journey into the deepest pits of flesh-conceived hell from there. If you have trouble understanding that thought, just listen to the music and, well, get properly fucked up. If you find that idea laughable in the slightest, you’re in the wrong end of comprehension, pal.
Sepulchral Blessing is by all means a direct continuum to Sermons, tailing it by almost exactly a year later. The essence behind everything is the same, but there’s a noticeable step-up in production value and details. The six songs offer plenty to discover, all the while their creator keeps the leash tightened, directing you wherever they see fit. The entirety is more focused, but also way more oppressing and composed. I’m aware using the latter word in this context might seem odd, but it’s not like these towers of sonic anguish would come together on their own, is it? Either way, there’s more hooks to cling onto and more traps to get caught into, as all the deep-running nuances start to sprout forth the truest gestalt of CLAVICVLA and what kind of horrors and trepidations the vessel is capable of amassing.
Every single time I read something about CLAVICVLA, whether a press release, an interview, or a review, the subject of perversion as a motif comes up. The topic is often shunned in the so called better circles or ‘higher class’ or whatever, and while that is definitely ridiculous, I understand how the notion bears irrelevant but prevalent meanings. I guarantee that for most people, perversion translates to an unconventional (insert tremendous quotation marks) sexual behaviour that deviates from whatever fucking standards the church and society has kindly bestowed upon this humanity. While that allegory often applies to the term, the meaning behind it extends far beyond merely that. Perversion, bare-bones, means any and all
deviations characteristics differing from these set norms most of society abides to. This also means that calling someone a pervert doesn’t equal to your run-of-the-mill peeping Tom-foolery or other, ahem, repulsive behaviour.
In CLAVICVLA‘s case, and keep in mind that this is just my interpretation, the idea of perversion implies a drastic difference in intellect thinking. While the cover art of Degeneracy of the 5th Density sure does imply some BDSM tendencies, it’s more or less an on the nose factor rather than a defining aspect. I can be wrong on all of this given that I have zero fucking clue about the lyrics, but I base this solely on every other angle the act lets on, whether in audible or written formats. I’ve noticed the topics of perversion and bestiality alongside tons of other infrequently used characterizations are put widely to use by Sentient Ruin in everything they do as well, so maybe it’s about time the music industry would yank its head of out of its not-so-figurative ass to proudly cover its lurking but ever-present facets to ignite some kind of a change in this world. Wishful thinking? Yeah, definitely.
So, Degeneracy of the 5th Density. The highly welcome third CLAVICVLA album arrived on June 22, and I first got ahold of it when asked to scribe the mentioned premiere for the track “Dead Bishop”. More than eager to let this serpentine darkness envelope my body, I revisited the earlier two full-lengths, which is something I extremely rarely do, to prepare for what the song and album by extension had in store. My mind also immediately went to this feature, because what better time and timing would I have to sink my teeth into CLAVICVLA‘s flesh than right in the backwash of the album’s release.
Praising “Dead Bishop” and deservedly so, I said the following;
‘The ambiance-heavy, meditative pathos found here is otherworldly, conveying mental images of horrors and dreads both bodily and cosmic proportions while advancing in low-frequency tremors and constant hums, capable of inducing nightmarish state of being. The distant hissing somehow resembling vocals make an appearance every now and then, only further emphasizing CLAVICVLA‘s unsettling and tormenting nature. This is by far some of the most discerning outputs you’ll ever hear.‘
And you know, after countless listens and further orientation, I still stand behind all of that without a single doubt in my mind.
Degeneracy of the 5th Density is by far the most refined and holistic effort from CLAVICVLA to date, as the experience it offers is barely paralleled by anyone. The press notes about it being an album filled to the brim with ‘black ambient‘ and ‘death industrial‘ ring true even though especially the former is by design destined to raise an eyebrow or two. Still, that’s exactly what this sounds like, and you don’t need to get that many minutes into it to properly understand the thought process behind the moniker. I’m generally wary of odd genre specifications and whatnot, but hell, once it hits, it hits good.
The album’s main forte is being an entirety, and chopping the sum to its parts is rather difficult. But if you want examples of something that’ll hook you in faster than you can say ‘what the ever-loving fuck is happening here’ backwards, look no further than the mentioned “Dead Bishop”, the beyond menacing “The Invocation of Flesh”, or the crackling hums of “Decadence of Ascension”, and you find yourself sinking into the act’s dismal and lightless trench with absolutely no means to escape whatsoever. Strangely enough, after all this talk about suffocating darkness, bodily and mental absolvement, perversions, and whatever else, there’s a peculiar beauty in CLAVICVLA. I might get crucified for even implying such a thing, but I just call it the way I see and hear it.
I find myself often saying how it’s difficult to put into words what a certain artist is capable of doing with their output, and I can deduct and only wonder whether it means that I simply don’t possess the cool way with words to speak about it or that the art at hand is indescribable in its fullness. I choose to believe the latter, and you should too, but even if you didn’t, for your own sake, go listen to CLAVICVLA on Bandcamp or whatever streaming platform you fancy, and get those physical mediums secured either from Sentient Ruin or Cyclic Law. What’s left after that, is to wait for Kali Yuga to end.