“Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.” – Carl Sagan
Those who have been reading BMD for a while may be familiar with the name Synodic; the debut single ‘Large Magellanic Cloud’ by US duo Imber and Myrdin Cerphas was featured back in the heady days of Bandcamp Misanthropy Volume 1. Since then I’ve followed the project with interest and remained in contact, and now I’ve been extremely privileged to hear the full-length realisation of their vision and speak with conceptual creator, lyricist and vocalist Imber about the massive ‘Infinite Presence In A Violent Universe”, finally unleashed upon the galaxy at midnight last night.
But first, a look at the album itself. Space themed black metal projects are close to becoming dime-a-dozen these days; write some spacey riffs, slap on some psychedelic sounds, add vague lyrics and Bob’s your astronaut. Straight off the bat, with their debut Synodic surpass the majority of those projects by means of one key ingredient: a genuine passion for astronomy and the universe at large. A great deal of attention is paid to the scientific content of the lyrics and everything from the sound and production to the huge, expansive songs seems carefully planned to give the listener the most authentic cosmic experience still skillfully balanced with the raw black metal ethos and aesthetic. It’s violent and illuminating, light and dark, crushingly solid and eerily ethereal all at once.
Introductory track ‘Descending On Titan’ sucessfully sets up the journey ahead, implanting images of an unfathomably huge object moving through space before the titular second track explodes as though you’re witnessing the big bang itself from afar. Think if Anaal Nathrakh were floating on a distant space shuttle instead of puking in the gutters of Birmingham and you’re along the right track; it’s one of the more intense songs on the record. It’s here you’re introduced to the unique production too, which eschews just enough of the total rawness of low-fi black metal for a more modern, distant and intricate effect. The guitars sound like planetary noise, a dense yet distant roar of raw sound while mechanical drums not often suited to black metal click and whir with savage precision like intricate parts of a spacecraft gliding effortlessly through the black void; shimmering cymbal crashes echoing throughout immensity.
The fury of the song eases up for a moment to introduce us to another feature of the album; a synth interlude with a sound that isn’t a million miles away from the delicate cosmic tones of Limbonic Art’s ‘In Abhorrence Dementia’ introduction but which seems far more fitting here. These synths make a welcome return for the start of the absolutely epic third track; the lead-in single ‘Large Magellanic Cloud’.
With the dust settled from the fury of the title track, now the stillness and vastness of the cosmos dawns upon you and you’re in awe of its magnitude. You’re floating in space, its wonders reaching out into infinity. It’s an epic, trance-like song, dense and heavy. Named after a galaxy that orbits our Milky Way once every 1500 million years, you know that feeling you get when your mind grasps the enormity of a fact like that? When you imagine yourself, an inconsequential mote of dust, drifting through the endless, terrifying yet beautiful nothingness of space? That feeling is this track. Magnificent, cold and awe inspiring.
The album continues with the two-parter of tracks four and five, ‘Cosmic Cataclysm NGC 6357’ and the instrumental ‘Cosmic Perspective’. The vibes are still sky high and Imber’s vocals taking a breather only allows pause to fully take in the sheer overwhelming vastness of it all. Speaking of which, Imber shrieks and rasps with the best of them and matches the tone of the songs with detached fury, her voice a vortex with it’s own gravitational pull; a vocal black hole.
I won’t say too much about the last two tracks so there’s still uncharted planes for the interstellar traveller to discover, just that the riffs in both are absolutely killer and the closer contains one of the catchiest riff/vocal combinations I’ve heard in aeons.
Overall, it’s a truly excellent debut that knows its subject matter and nails it better than some artists with ten times the experience. The songs are massive, expansive and really given time to breathe; the production is just right and doesn’t fall into the all-too-common trap of being too gaudy or bombastic, keeping its black metal roots intact and deliciously prominent. One of my favourite underground releases of late; I’ll be honestly surprised if this doesn’t get snapped up for a physical release by an ace label very soon.
So without further ado, pick up the album from the above link (all funds go towards a physical release) then grab some headphones, go outside, look at the stars and float off into the atmosphere. Or alternatively, give it a stream as you read our chat with vocalist Imber below to delve further into its measureless mysteries.
Hails Imber! I hope you’re well. Your debut album ‘Infinite Presence In A Violent Universe’ has just been released, how does it feel to finally have it unleashed upon the world?
– As someone who has been very passionate about music my whole life it feels really good to release something that I am part of. Not just to be a listener but to be part of the creation itself.
Synodic is you and Myrdin Cerphas, who I believe is your partner, something you don’t often see in black metal. What’s it like working artistically with your significant other, do the creative fires burn brighter from your bond?
– It works well for us because we know and understand each other so well. When I presented the idea and concept to him he was able to translate that into music that was just how I felt it should be. He was able to create the right vibe and emotion it’s supposed to invoke. He is gifted in that way and we work well together.
It’s quite a strong debut, especially considering you take care of all aspects of the project yourselves. What roles do each of you play within Synodic? Do you offer any feedback on each other’s work or simply trust in each other’s ability and interpretation of the vision?
– A little bit of both. He writes the music and does all the sound engineering while I do all the vocals and lyrics. He always asks for my opinion and feedback on what he creates and vice versa. We take that into consideration and make something we both are happy as a result.
It’s been a couple of months since the excellent and trance-like first single ‘Large Magellanic Cloud’ was released. How long did the album take to complete? How was the recording experience?
– It took about 3 months from start to finish and since we record at home we can do it on our time so if we want to spend hours and hours creating and recording in a couple of days and then take a few days off we can. Recording at home with Myrdin on our own time is comfortable and it’s been a great experience because it’s something we do together creating music we are passionate about.
Synodic describes itself as ‘Cosmic USBM portraying the heavy, dark elements of the universe through music’. What is it about these universe that you find so inspiring, and why do you think these themes translate so well into black metal?
– There is nothing more violent, dark, and massive than the cosmos so it suits black metal perfectly. We are next to nothing in the grand scheme of things.
The lyrics of the album are quite unique; there are many space themed projects out there but this is the first one I’ve come across based largely on actual science. It really seems like you know your stuff and this is a genuine interest of yours. Have you had this project planned out for a while?
– I have always loved astronomy and the reality of the universe is so much more awe-inspiring than any fantasy or supernatural human creation in my opinion. Combining astronomy and black metal, my two favorite things, is really special for me. After listening to a few cosmic themed black metal albums last year we thought it would be perfect just do it in our own way using the science in a poetic way for the lyrical content.
One of the tracks contains a fitting sample of a Carl Sagan quote. What’s the significance of the quote, and what does it and Carl Sagan mean to this project?
– Carl Sagan is someone I admire and idolize really. He wanted the world to acknowledge our place in the universe and not fall victim to dogma. When you open your eyes and mind to the reality of the universe around you it is the most liberating feeling and he helped catalyze that during his time.
The instrumental introductory track ‘Descending On Titan’ has some interesting sounds in there. Can you tell us a little about this track, is it just something you knocked up in studio?
– We used actual sample sounds from the Huygens space probe that landed on Saturn’s moon Titan in 2005. It was part of the Cassini mission to Saturn. Sounds of the probe entering the atmosphere and the landing, so it was appropriate to name the track “Descending on Titan”.
Music-wise, are there any particular bands/artists that have had a profound influence on either you or Myrdin’s vocal or playing style?
– My biggest influences range from early black metal artists such as Burzum to the newer artists like Mare Cognitum. Myrdin draws influence from everything as early as 60’s rock to a lot of early black metal and newer black metal as well.
You’re self-releasing at the moment. Any plans to shop around for labels or would you prefer to remain independent for now?
– We would gladly sign to a label that is right for Synodic if the opportunity presents itself.
Are there any plans for Synodic to one day become a live entity? Is performing with session members something you’d be interested in?
– There are no plans for us to be performing live any time soon but who knows what the future will hold if we meet the right people.
What do you hope the listener takes home from this interstellar journey?
– An appreciation for what we create and hopefully they become interested in doing their own research into cosmos.
Do you guys have any other active projects we should check out?
– Myrdin has a black metal project called Revelation None that is a completely different animal from Synodic. You can look Revelation None up on Facebook, Bandcamp, and most streaming services such as Spotify.
So what comes next; what does the universe have in store for Synodic? Are you thinking about a follow up release yet?
– We hope to release an EP this fall so follow us and we’ll keep everyone updated.
Thanks again for talking to us, congratulations on a stellar debut! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
– We’d just like to thank you for the interview and review of the album. We appreciate everyone that has been there for us through the process and all those that will support us going forward.
Purchase ‘Infinite Presence In A Violent Universe’ on Bandcamp here.
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