Album Review: VILKACIS - Beyond the Mortal Gate
As the drummer for New York City's Yellow Eyes, Mike Rekevics finds himself as part of one of the most critically acclaimed American black metal bands. Alongside other bands like Woe and Krallice, Rekevics and company pioneer a new wave of USBM. Being innovative and forward-looking is all fine and good. But pursuing a more straightforward and classic sound can still yield important albums. This is what Vilkacis, the one-man project created by Mr. Rekevics, seeks to accomplish on Beyond the Mortal Gate.
Classic doesn't necessarily mean the Norwegian bands of the Helvete set; though the project certainly adheres to Fenriz's imposition against clicky tech-death style drums (thank goodness). The first band that comes to mind when listening to "Defiance" or "Sixty Three" is actually Quebec's Forteresse. There's a spirit of longing combined with a triumphant defiance that echoes the aesthetic of Métal Noir Québécois. This is especially true of much of the guitar work, with riffs piercing the foreground with high-pitched notes carrying a song's central narrative. At other times, the band also bears some similarity to atmospheric greats like Winterfylleth and Drudkh, but with enough distinguishing factors that set it apart. Some of the song structures even remind me a little bit of Let the Devil In-era Sargeist…minus the Satan part, of course.
Unlike the aforementioned bands, national heritage has little-to-nothing to do with the lyrical themes on Beyond the Mortal Gate. The lyrics deal much more with spiritual themes, as can be heard on the album's crown jewel: "Boundless Spell of Realization." The song manages the not-so-easy task of creating an entrancing atmosphere while still kicking enough ass to get your fist pumping. This creates the sonic backdrop to lyrics like these:
Tempered by flame,
Shrouded in night.
Cut from the flesh of eternity,
A rib torn from the flank of time.
Stolen moments of will, desire, intention
Boundless spell of realization.
I especially like the line, "Cut from the flesh of eternity / A rib torn from the flank of time." You have the obvious reference to Genesis and the story of human creation, but it pulls the concept out from corporeal existence and into the realm of time itself. And the line "Manifest immortality" is interesting too. Is Mike saying that, since our being is bound within the concept of time—an expression of eternity—we are ourselves immortal? It is hard to dive further into this without a long and probably very snooty discussion. Yet, use that notion as a marker for the level of thought and care that went into crafting lyrics and music that powers into our ears.
Beyond the Mortal Gate is a great album for black metal devotees eager to hear their sound taken to new and interesting places, yet want to carry some familiar implements along the way. The raw guitar tones and harsh vocals are fully intact, as are drums that keep a mostly steady pace with enough change to not become a dull haze of blasting. Also most importantly for a black metal album, well, any metal album really—the guitars stay with you. After a couple listens, the riffs begin to follow you in that way that almost forces you to return to the album to get them out of your head and to explore the other ones. Let's hope Vilkacis gives us more records like this to explore in the future.
Favorite songs: "Defiance" and "Boundless Spell of Realization"