At the end of last month, a duo from Kansas calling themselves Assault Sorcery released their demo, Discernment in Viscera. Playing an intriguing style of subtly psychedelic black/death, the duo live up to their name truly and fully. More existential than bestial, more cunning than outright violent, Discernment in Viscera is, suffice to say, a bewildering and dark journey.
According to Cauldron Pest (drums/vocals), he and Êlgg (guitars/vocals) started Assault Sorcery out of “boredom.” Cauldron Pest says it was all due to “The desire to make music that we want to hear. Having similar musical and philosophical interests. Being old friends.”
“I read a book called Dark Shamans that describes assault sorcery as the inverse of the shamanic healing arts, but also paradoxically an extension of them,” says Êlgg, explaining how he came up with their awesome band name. “It’s a kind of ritualized, magical violence. As a concept and as an actual practice, assault sorcery is brutal and horrifying so it really struck me as a fitting name for a black metal band. To me it’s perfect because even without an awareness of what assault sorcery is, the name evokes the kind of battle magic you might encounter in an rpg or fantasy novel. So it has these two layers to it, both of which I find engaging and both of which inform our sound (elgg allegedly means ‘death’ in the language of the Drow).”
Êlgg continues to explain how Discernment in Viscera all came together. He begins, “At the start of the shutdown in the spring, I decided to get my shit together and write some music. I bought a cheap mobile interface and laid out big-picture drafts of each song and took my time revising the structure and the harmony/rhythm of the base riffs until they felt and sounded right (painting drum patterns literally by hand was a total pain in the ass). Generally, I had a narrative arc I was chasing for each that helped inform some of those decisions (e.g. the song about the duelist was always going to end with him dying, the song about the cult was always going to have a chaotic/storm-like middle section).
“Vocals we worked on together,” Êlgg says. “I knew there were a few spots where I wanted to do the shouty, manic proclamations, but generally wanted C[auldron Pes]t to use his considerable repertoire of black/death vocals to bring the rest to life. I had rhythmic ideas for the vocal lines and the lyrics written and C did a take or two of each song based on that and a lot of what came through was him riffing.”
“Given our jobs and lives, rehearsal for us is next to impossible,” explains Cauldron Pest. “Êlgg sent me phone recordings of the song layouts to become familiar with. We first rehearsed on the day we tracked drums, which we did in a day in a Uhaul storage unit. The songs were mapped out on paper, and after a couple of run throughs, we went for it and recorded. E did guitars the next day and we did vocals and mixing over a few other sessions fit in as life allowed. Cheers to D. (Strigoi) of Verräter, Garoted, Cataphract, and the operator of Sordid Curse Productions on a job well done! As always.”
The title of the demo, according to Êlgg “come from an apocryphal story [he] came across describing a 5th century Celtic seer and his efforts to divine the future in the guts of sacrificial victims—first animals, later people, and ultimately himself.” Êlgg says, “We tried to craft the release in a way that similarly rewards close inspection.”
If you know what you’re looking for, Assault Sorcery wear their literary inspirations on their sleeves. Êlgg admits, “Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun is something I reread every year or two, and I was rereading the first half while I was writing these songs. I definitely can’t do the books justice in a quick description, but most of the lyrics to the last track are taken directly from the text of The Claw of the Conciliator—it’s a kind of prayer said just before an execution—, which I paired with some extrapolation about a duelist mentioned in the first book. So these are two examples of ritualized violence (capital punishment and monomachy).
“I really love how Gene Wolfe confuses the line between fact and fiction, even between history and the future,” Êlgg continues. “In the same way, [Joe] Abercrombie is great at blurring good and evil. Our song inspired by his First Law trilogy tells a story shared in the second book about the destruction of an ancient city by a magic system that is inherently evil (even though some characters appear to want to use it for good). If anything unites all four of the songs, it’s that concept of hazy boundaries. We have these riffs in weird meter followed by really straightforward punk beat shit, and it’s all on equal footing.”
As far what demos have inspired Assault Sorcery’s Discernment in Viscera, Êlgg says “If we’re looking at demos, Arnaut Pavle’s 2013 demo is a big one, as well as Cartilage’s 1991 demo, with its Philip José Farmer reference. C turned me on to Kêres when we were working on these songs, so that played a role as well. Writing it down, I realize that’s all Finnish stuff and the crooked melody and rhythm of that regional sound is definitely something I love. I also have to mention that the output of Crepuscúlo Negro / Rhinocervs was a huge inspiration.”
Cauldron Pest adds: “More than anything, what inspires me is seeing my friends and those I respect continuing to create exceptional music.”
Turns out: Assault Sorcery “didn’t have time to record everything [Êlgg] wrote in that first session, and [he’s] written more material since then.” According to Êlgg, “We have plans to record something this spring to put out before the end of 2021. We also are in talks with our friends in Cataphract to do a split.”
In the meantime, do yourself a favor and get Discernment in Viscera on tape and support original music!