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the haxan cloak - Excavation
Bobby Krlic returns with his hugely anticipated second album as The Haxan Cloak, and his first for Tri Angle. It's an unrelentingly bleak offering that will satisfy fans of his terrific Aurora Borealis debut, but it also has a more electronic, rhythmic feel befitting of his new label and which will potentially appeal to an even wider audience. Though it was supposedly conceived to soundtrack a soul's journey beyond this mortal coil, don't come at it expecting some blissed-out amble through Elysium; Krlic's vision of the afterlife is a decidedly gloomy and abyssal, an all-out descent into the underworld. Before you've even had a chance to get your bearings, 'Consumed' sucks you straight into a pitch-black and bottomless cave, ectoplasm dripping from its walls, ghouls circling overhead, warped bass and martial drum thumps beckoning you further into the nightmare. The presence of miasmic vocal tones and music-box chimes serves only to make the two-part 'Excavation' more terrifying, while the percussion settles into a zombie andante that reminds us of Burial, Holy Other and Scorn all at once. 'Mara' is a cunning, advanced synthesis of pin-drop sensitivity, sub-low heft and doom-metal brutality that inevitably recalls the spirit-wartorn landscapes of last year's Raime album, while 'Miste' and 'The Mirror Reflecting (Part 1)' explore the same fetid witch-crypts and burial chambers of vintage Lustmord. 'The Mirror Reflecting (Part 2)' and 'Dieu' initiate the album's climactic sequence, in which Krlic finally calls - explicitly - upon the neo-classical chops that characterised his debut: on the former, rotary strings and cooing synths make a rueful appeal to the gods, but the hope of redemption is soon extinguished by the scything drones and quivering giallo cello of 'Dieu' - you know they're willing you to hell, but you can't help but be seduced. Don't worry, closing number 'The Drop' isn't a stadium dubstep bolt-on, but rather a 12-minute epic that might just be the most fiendishly focussed and complete creation in the Haxan canon: a stunning fusion of elegiac chamber music, iron-fist industrial rhythm and widescreen cosmic dread, perfectly shaped and modulated to blow minds and empty bowels.