Review: Psychonaut ‘Violate Consensus Reality’
Psychonaut’s first album, 2018s Unfold The God Man, had a lot going for it. A cool sound gorgeous colored vinyl released through Pelagic Records that had just enough pretty parts to make the occasional harshness glimmer. I discovered it right as the pandemic started to feel real and it served as one of my ‘survival albums’ so expectations on Violate Consensus Reality were a bit high for this Belgian post-doom metal trio.
Their debut EP, 2014s XXIV Trips Around The Sun saw members Thomas Michiels on bass and vocals, Stefan de Graef on guitar and vocals immediately set themselves apart from contemporaries with lush arrangements with an emphasis on mixing clean and harsh vocals equally. 2021s Emerald, a split with SÂVER, saw the addition of Harm Peters on drums and the release of the track The Great Realisation continued with a new flare I’ve revisited many times.
Choosing a drastic kick to the chest, rather than a gentle awakening, A Storm Approaching pulses an uncanny heartbeat from an ominous and unfamiliar cloud. An Eastern speckled guitar and shared vocal duties between Michiels and de Graef. Michiels bass and Peters drums dance around all this, teasing each with a breath of wind, a staunch desperation beautifully changing its movement. Every part of the song is amplified, setting the stage for the rest of the album to ravenously come alive at those willing to simply look upwards.
Taking flight like a congregation of birds circling a victim, All Your Gods Have Gone dazzles with cunning dynamics. A light guitar varies in shades engulfed by sure footed, and bombastic, drumming and vocals. The whole four-minute barn burning breakdown manages to never lose a bit of tenacity or waste a single second. Every once in a while, lyrics as clear as day can be made out adding to the evocative and direct attack. ‘What have we done to deserve this’ and ‘buried in time we resurrect the sun’ spark imaginative half thoughts. Vogue howling screeches, from what sounds like the bottom of a well, closes matters out.
A venomous guitar on Age Of Separation cannot side i’s airy and moody atmosphere. The vocals wobble and lunge to keep momentum quickly evening out. Deep in the mix, vague motor noises give a mechanical, and inorganic, sound making it possible to catch our breath.
Landscapes and soundscapes morph into an all-enveloping sludge…
A clacking, tiny wooden percussion gives Colin H. van Eeckhout (Amenra) and Stefanie Mannaerts (Brutus) enough breathing room for their gorgeous dune siren qualities with their contribution on title track Violate Consensus Reality. Laced in seduction and false ease, like a drizzle in the middle of the desert, guitar solos calm the overwhelming drought until heavy dripping water furiously collapses air from the lungs and bleeds the strength from the ground.
Landscapes and soundscapes morph into an all-enveloping sludge, making attempts to gain freedom useless. Exhausted, meandering notes now bleed life, until a gentle guitar solo wraps around each instrument slowly inching out from a sinking death. A new momentum makes drums pummel, guitars soar, and the screams radiate energy. After any near fatal experience forces the senses into a humming spasm.
Bent strings wave in a fluttering piano where Hope lightly sits in a noble appreciation. Lyrics ‘spread your wings we are the hope’ paint the clear, but evocative, message of the prospect of a better future. Yes, I know what ‘hope’ literally means; but it’s done quite beautifully here. Chords come in heavy near the end, but the strength holding the weight feels precise and strong. Psychonaut places the song down with ease, fluidity, and care.
An ambient drone joined by a simple guitar line create Interbeing’s foundation. Echoed drumming adorn a hypnotic effect so mesmerizing that when it eventually bursts, your equilibrium collapses. Dual vocals have been played with a lot so far and here sound frantic, almost pleading. The line ‘Shine with all your might’ is coated with something so deep and primal it’s difficult to not relate. Interdimensional tribal drumming takes the reigns forward in a strange direction, guitars start simple, then swell into a thick, lush group of waves guiding our ear until the track’s abrupt end.
Hasty aggression fuels A Pacifist’s Guide To Violence as a psychedelic guitar spins a thick cocoon around the mind’s eye, shutting the world out. Waking from that sensory deprivation, Towards The Edge walks slowly with marching band-esque drumming eyeing the storm’s clearing close. We’re feeling stronger than before. Notes, controlled in pace, are filled with contemplation over the lyric ‘guides your journey’. The vocals power through the sludge that once trapped our feet, the trio then flexes as the first steps out of the madness are engulfed in sunlight as strings then part another opening for Mannaerts vocals to close the album.
Label: Pelagic Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram
Scribed by: Richard Murray