Pseudogod – Deathwomb Catechesis (2012)

[Condemner main songwriter Paul Bacque has an alternate take on Pseudogod’s notorious debut full length ‘Deathwomb Catechesis’]

There’s a certain class of album that has to appear simplistic and off the cuff, even if it really isn’t, in order to fulfill its artistic goals. Dethrone the Son of God is a prime example of this — you’ll never see it talked about as a particularly technical album, although if you try to transcribe its guitar or drum parts, you’ll see it was certainly not played by slouches.  At a compositional level, Pseudogod’s Deathwomb Catachesis is another example of this — incorporating the best aspect of “war metal”, its fervent masculinity, required Pseudogod to use an “extreme” production, drenched in reverb and with the mid-range of the guitar heavily scooped, but underneath this obscuring layer is an album tied surprisingly tightly to ‘80s extreme metal fundamentals in riff structuring and melody, with a striking resemblance in particular to Under the Sign of the Black Mark, beaten into ambient effect with percussive techniques borrowed from Beherit and Demoncy.

The central riffing technique here, borrowed from Bathory, is the usage of short progressions as fragments to create sub-structures within a riff  — with three short progressions A, B, and C, you’d end up with a riff structured like AAABCC, as opposed to the entire riff being a single linear melody or a melody with two resolutions reflected against each other as is more common in metal.  The strength of this composition technique is in the ability to re-use these progressions to create unity between disparate riffs (for a simple example, think of the final higher-pitched descending pair of gallops in the verse riff of Bathory’s Massacre getting re-used in the chorus, fusing the two musical ideas together as parts of a whole), and it’s a strength that Pseudogod expands upon by using modulations when progressions are re-introduced into new riffs, making more dramatic forward motion natural and logical.  Percussion, again echoing Bathory on Under the Sign of the Black Mark, remains linear and straight-ahead even when when the riffs beneath take on galloping or swinging slide-power-chord rhythms, and frequently acts to direct dynamics, changing the intensity of the beat even when no rhythmic change happens in the riff beneath, bringing another dimension to the compositions. Vocals are the typical Pillard-inspired roar, mainly a textural accompaniment to the proceedings.

The question that will always surround this release is “why obscure the ‘80s backbone beneath the layers of scooped guitar tone, reverb, and linear vocal and percussive rhythms?”  The answer lies in metal’s dual nature as a Dionysian art with Apollonian aims. Metal is Dionysian in that its methodology is the same as Dionysian rituals — overwhelm the senses such that the illusion of the self vanishes — but the aim of this isn’t a hippie-rock style “be happy and prosper!” ethos, but a masculine, warlike, and severe ethos that seeks to pit the self against the trials of privation and death to seek the form behind matter, the spirit beyond the dust of a creator “god”.  It is in unifying these three strains, physical, warlike, spiritual, that Pseudogod excels — first one is immediately overwhelmed by the clattering wall of sound, then roused by the warlike march-beats, but once one has allowed themselves to be submerged into these layers to see what lies within, they find an album that sings with the same structural and melodic language that heavy metal always has, with a spirit and will to see past all illusions.

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