Litha – Litha (Tartarus Records)

“A way to process my anger and pain. An effort to bring that ugliness to the surface.”

Andrew Black is brutally honest about his need for Litha, his solo project. A live bassist for drone/doom acts Mizmor and Hell, the Oregon-born musician has a track record in monstrously heavy sonic art. But thus far, his studio recordings have been focused on ambient productions.

Litha in contrast, is undiluted, anguished black metal, with the organic production to match.

A perfect channel, then, for Black to explore his inner torment.

On Hunger, it feels like Black is yearning for something more as its post-BM opening segment explodes into a firestorm of blastbeats and searing fretwork.

Move to Wearing Away, and you’ll be wrapped in a charred fabric that brings to mind Darkthrone’s classic 90s triptych. Litha’s creator deftly introduces new layers to the track, before heading straight for a doomed-out void. That song’s chasm gazing bleeds into I Am Many, a slow burn walk through Black’s gloomscapes.

Those tracks, however, don’t quite prepare you for what is to follow.

On Bite The Hand, Black pulls riffs straight from BM’s molten core. Yet he complements that with cold, mournful melodies. The light and shade approach to his songcraft is perfectly executed. It’s a fascinating piece.

And 12-minute closer Thirst, something akin to Wolves In The Throne room in its night sky grandeur, is Litha’s coup de grâce. A sensational piece of black metal art, the song shifts from a hypnotic pulse to a blasting torrent of arcing guitars and hyper-percussion. Calmer waters arrive, but a storm – in the form of Thirst’s thrilling climax – annihilates any tranquillity.   

Litha seethes with emotion…

While bearing his soul, Andrew Black has conjured up something truly special with Litha.

There’s rage on this record.

There’s also beauty.

It’s perfectly balanced.

It hurts.

But it’s also incredibly compelling.