By Jonathan Smith
Some albums take some time to get into. Migdal Bavel is one that rewards patience and careful listening. The second full-length release from the Netherlands’ De Magia Veterum, helmed entirely by a single man, “M,” is at first exposure a whirlpool of musical chaos. Acts bearing the label “avant-garde black metal” can go in many directions, and in this case the direction is straight into a solid wall of noise. However, to use a tired cliché, there is a method to the madness. There are many things going on at once — blastbeats, shredding tremolo progressions, shrieked vocals, ambient fill, to name just a few — and they are all arranged in such a way so as to blend into each other. In the case of vocals, this means that the screams and shrieks sound like just another instrument that is part of the sonic tsunami emerging from the speakers. Supposedly the songs touch on themes such as the Old Testament and misanthropy, but you won’t be able to understand the lyrics enough for it to matter. Migdal Bavel instead seems to focus on creating a symphony of sound that comes and goes relatively quickly, sucking what energy it can from its listener in its passing. The album rewards repeated listens (not always the case), as once you become familiar enough with what is going on the individual textures and segments of tracks like “Curse of Cannan” begin to shine through. There are two restrained interlude tracks, small breaks in the action in which you had better take a breath before the next wave comes in over your head. Migdal Bavel will not be for everyone, and it doesn’t always hold together; however, what it does have to offer become more and more clear each time you dive into its turbulent waters.