Label: Apocalyptic Witchcraft
Trying to second-guess what a new Caïna record will sound like is a pretty pointless task. Within the back catalogue of the UK act, you’ll find everything from blackened hardcore to neofolk to experimental electronics and beyond. Added to that is the fact that the band is no longer a solo concern, with founding member Andrew Curtis-Brignell now being joined by Laurence Taylor (Cold Fell, COF Records) on vocals, adding a whole new element to the equation. Then consider that the band’s recent live performances had tended towards noise performances rather than anything traditionally metal, as well as the band publicly hinting that 90s industrial metal was becoming more of an influence. Taken together, it means that the only thing that could be stated with certainty about Christ Clad In White Phosphorus is that it would be a dark, challenging listen – which it most certainly is. It’s one of the more demanding releases in the Caïna catalogue, but given time and patience, it also reveals itself as one of the strongest.
Opening track “Oildrenched and Geartorn” starts the album in suitably understated, ominous style. The introductory track is rather minimalist in sound, but very heavy on unsettling atmosphere, and when its dark ambient tones give way to the Mysticum-esque industrial black metal assault of “Torture Geometry”, the result is all the more effective for the contrast. Laurence’s vocals add a more rabid, vicious element to Caïna’s sound when compared with previous releases, which suits the desperate, destructive air of such tracks perfectly. Songs such as “Fumes Of God” and “God’s Tongue As An Ashtray” are shrouded in the same kind of decay and depravity as Ministry could conjure at their bleakest and best, the sound of the world not so much collapsing but decaying from the inside; the rotten, hollow bones of society becoming clear for all to see. Not that they are an unlistenable kind of darkness, though; “Fumes Of God” in particular features some soaring guitars and keyboards towards its conclusion that are marvelous in their misery. By contrast, “Entartete Kunst” is possessed of the same kind of fury that propels Anaal Nathrakh, driven forward by a drum machine every bit as intense as the band are themselves.
Remarkably, the tracks which see Caïna embrace industrial black metal are the most accessible ones here. “The Throat Of The World” sees them collaboration with Dwid Hellion (Integrity) under his Vermapyre moniker, to deliver five minutes of unnerving, industrial-tinged dark ambient that is one of the most unsettling things to appear on a Caïna record. “Pillars Of Salt”, which features London noise/improv duo Warren Schoenbright, is a four and a half minute journey of inhumanly dexterous jazz drumming, topped off with vicious noise, all underpinned by a haunting dark ambient atmosphere. And then there’s penultimate track “Extraordinary Grace”, a 12 minute epic of Vangelis-like soundscapes, being eaten away by the decay of the world. Even by Caïna’s standards it’s a bold move, and a hugely successful one too, with its other-worldly atmosphere being emphasized by the contrast with the dark post-punk-meets-industrial of the closing title track that sits somewhere between Skinny Puppy and Joy Division.
Even so, this only tells half the story of Christ Clad In White Phosphorus. It is a very diverse album in a musical sense, but remarkably consistent in tone and atmosphere. It might take a few spins to find the threads that tie the album together as a whole (rather than as a collection of songs), but it’s there, buried beneath the surface, and once found it helps explain how Caïna have been able to include so many different sounds and styles on one album and still have it succeed. It’s even more remarkable when contrasted with the blackened hardcore fury of previous album, Setter Of Unseen Snares. If there were any doubts as to the Caïna’s continued willingness to challenge their audience and lead them down difficult, yet ultimately rewarding paths as they so often did as a solo act, they must surely be dispelled by now. It’s this difficulty that makes me rate the album so highly; whereas Setter Of Unseen Snares was much more immediate, this record is more insidious, cleverly burrowing under your skin, chipping away at your psyche until its victory cannot be denied. Christ Clad In White Phosphorus might not make things easy for the listener, but it sure as hell is a great record, and one that is sure to see listeners coming back for more as years go by.