Verberis – The Apophatic Wilderness (Norma Evangelium Diaboli)

Friday, 19th April 2024
Rating: 9 / 10

New Zealand is way more than Hobbitses and the home of the mighty Pūteketeke. It’s also a hotbed for innovative extreme metal, and we’re all the better for it. An understated favorite of this scribe is Verberis, who have been creating visceral, suffocatingly impenetrable blackened death metal for about a decade with nowhere near the amount of fanfare earned. The quartet produced an impressively vital album in 2022 via Adumbration of the Veiled Logos, so the excitement was palpable for the announcement of their third full-length The Apophatic Wilderness.

Winding long form songs that weave an intricately bleak tale is the norm for Verberis, and The Apophatic Wilderness dishes out three cuts of sinister, twisted aural punishment. That said, the band’s sound continues to morph in an unpredictable fashion, of which we gleefully expect from a project that doesn’t make the same album twice. Whereas Adumbration of the Veiled Logos was an exercise in a bleaker, more discordant view of the band’s trademark chaos, The Apophatic Wilderness is a more frightening and gnarled beast. It’s an album for the patient; more reserved, ominous, and ultimately menacing in a different way than previous works. Naturally, the payoff is categorically rewarding.

Opener “The Emptying of God” presents a slow building, cacophonous piece that adds additional textures as it moves forward. We can’t help but think of Abyssal as a comparison, especially considering doom influences – both in this track and throughout the album. The guitar work is sublime and varied, with creepy clean and lead guitars complimenting blackened rhythms in a murky harmony that is not easy to conjure this astutely. “Labyrinthine Privation” further delves into black metal atmospheres ala Svartidauði, but with the horrific nuance of Altarage. Jamie Saint Merat’s voracious work on the skins here is especially monumental, providing a dizzying yet focused display that gives Verberis such a foreboding feel.

The last song is “Arteries Unto Ruin” and is broken up into two conjoining parts. Clocking in at just over 20 minutes, this composition overflows with brooding intensity – budding with explosive moments that tear deeply, but cleverly hold just enough back to distort and lead the listener along. Similar in scope with their other long player “I Am the Father and the Tomb of the Heavens” though decidedly more gnostic black metal in tonality and aura. The doom again influence appears in multiple well-placed locations; a notable addition to Verberis’ sound profile that adds significant dynamism.

Verberis are undeniable, perceptively carving out their musical explorations with fresh ideas and pinpoint execution. Much like their contemporaries, this isn’t music that’s simple or quickly digestible. The more time spent and the closer attention given, Verberis constantly rewards those diligent souls with the utmost of quality, cerebral recordings. The Apophatic Wilderness represents Verberis remaining at the peak of their powers, granting us an always effervescent yet distinctive record to engross oneself in.

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