Psychonaut’s first album, 2018s Unfold The God Man, had a lot going for it. A cool sound that was released on gorgeous colored vinyl through Pelagic Records, it 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 my expectations of 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/vocals and Stefan de Graef on guitar/vocals immediately set themselves apart from their contemporaries with lush arrangements and 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, opener A Storm Approaching pulses an uncanny heartbeat from an ominous and unfamiliar cloud with 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 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 its airy and moody atmosphere. The vocals wobble and lunge to keep the momentum as they quickly even out. Deep in the mix, vague motor noises give a mechanical sound, making it possible to catch our breath.
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 strength from the ground.
drums pummel, guitars soar, and the screams radiate energy…
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 as it slowly inches out from a sinking death. A new momentum makes drums pummel, guitars soar, and the screams radiate energy to a near-fatal experience that forces the senses into a humming spasm.
Bent strings wave in a fluttering piano where Hope lightly sits in a noble appreciation. The lyric ‘spread your wings we are the hope’ paints a 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 lays the song down with ease, fluidity, and care.
An ambient drone is joined by a simple guitar line to create Interbeing’s foundation. Echoed drumming adorns 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 they 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 things 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 while eyeing the storm’s clearing. We’re feeling stronger than before.
The notes, controlled in pace, are filled with contemplation over the line ‘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 the strings part to another opening allowing Mannaerts vocals to close the album with the lines ‘open your conscious’ and ‘try to open your mind’.
Scribed by: Richard Murray