Review: Reflection of Misery – Total Scorn of Life (self-released, Jul 13)

I doubt anyone would expect otherwise from a release titled Total Scorn of Life with “Orgy of Wounds” as its first track, but Nicaraguan duo Reflection of Misery’s debut demo is a dark, ersatz nightmare. Almost every sound on this thing has something… not quite right with it, the magnitude of this uncanniness ranging from slightly off-kilter to deeply unsettling. On the aforementioned opener propulsive drums and crunchy, classic-sounding tremolo guitars rise out of and fall back into ominous ambience—often at the most unexpected moments, just when you’ve become acclimated to whatever’s happening. Despite this comprising the band’s inaugural public recordings, the style and songwriting indicate a deep appreciation for the tropes, textures, and general spirit of the black metal genre as a whole, pulling from so many different influences that the result is both nostalgic and timeless. “Miasma in Decadent Wombs,” beyond somehow outdoing the preceding title’s grotesqueness, is a more focused track that shows off the two musicians’ instrumental chops, as well as their ability to conjure a tremendously hypnotic onslaught of riffs and blasts that retains a shining simplicity. It’s all one big smear of soot, ash, and hellfire-scorched bones, and yet there are also so many memorable bits that anchor our wayward minds: the jarringly hard-panned bell hits in “Orgy,” the halftime climax of “Miasma,” the slinky, lumbering groove that false-starts “Wrong,” the creeping dread and demon-babble of “Perpetual Deluge of Pus,” et cetera et cetera. From the first inhuman growl, Reflection of Misery makes the most of skeletal but worthy production and hacks open a path to an exciting musical future.

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