Ever heard of psychedelic death metal? I hadn’t either until Burial in the Sky appeared on my radar with their latest release, Creatio et Hominus. Out of the prog hot spot that is Pennsylvania, U.S.A, the band successfully infuses elements of psychedelia to the heavy death metal style to come away with some mean sounding progressive music. Just to give you an idea, this album contains everything from harsh vocals and smooth saxophone playing to heavy breakdowns and delicate interludes. It’s definitely one of the more experimental “death metal” records that you could come across.
The album opens with a short track called “Nexus.” You immediately get a feel for the band’s psychedelic inclination. This instrumental track could easily be the opening theme for some 1970’s New York City police drama. Smooth saxophone cascades over some delicate piano and rainfall sound effects to sing the big city blues. The saxophone work throughout the album is credited to bassist Zach Strouse, who also laid down the sax on the new Rivers of Nihil record. You’re getting some great musicianship throughout the entirety of this trip.
The next song dips hard into the death metal universe. “Tesla” is the only song to feature ex-band member Jimmy Murphy on vocals. Murphy does an excellent job of delivering harrowing vocals on this track. The extreme vocals help push the vibes of this album in a completely alternate direction compared to the first track. You’re really taken for a spin. With vicious rhythms and speedy guitar work, the track builds quickly into a thing of prog beauty. Just when you think you’ve got your head wrapped around the vibe, the most majestic of interludes calmly appears to hold you in its arms. Drummer Sam Stewart is the man behind the beautiful piano melodies that swing the eeriest of vibes. Don’t let your guard down though, because Murphy and his harshness return ever briefly to crush your face on the way out.
The album is laced with heavy prog vibes and blistering vocals. Songs like “Nautilus’ Cage” and “Pslams of the Deviant” are great examples of the prog and death metal common ground, especially with singer Jorel Hart delivering some outstanding vocals. However, it is in songs like “The Pivotal Flame” that the band seems to have reached a song-writing high. Starting off with some heavy chugging on guitar and a violent rhythm section, the song slowly unfolds to reveal a small utopia of sound hidden with the chaos of the rest of the track. Ambient keys, xylophone-esque chimes, and more sexy-sax all paint this unique moment of musical righteousness. The song never regains its top speed, but rather it comes off the high of the interlude and winds down with a slower but just as heavy second half. “5 Years” is a song in a similar vein, but I will leave that one untouched, yours to discover.
The grand finale comes with the title track, “Creatio et Hominus,” and oh man is it ever a grand finale. With ancient tribal horns leading you into a trance, the song begins with a Pink Floyd vibe (see Meddle for great Pink Floyd sonic exploration). On this track we also find a showcase of clinical guitar work at the hands of James Tomedi. From soaring and complex solos to ambient melodies, Tomedi leads the melodic front for Burial in the Sky in this album. Brody Uttely is also credited for a guest solo on this track. Brain busting parts come in and out of this song as if you’re unsure of what drug you’re tripping on. It swings like the weather, with a sometimes very abrupt yet natural flow. With such a grandiose ending packed with overlapping melodies, this song is definitely my take away from the album.
It is not every day that you come across artists that take a step outside of the box to create some beautifully weird mismatched child. Burial in the Sky created some common ground between a few different styles of music, and that must be applauded. The psychedelic moments on this album did me good, and helped keep a balance between the light and dark aspects of the sonic space. This album could arguably be labeled as an experimental record for the way it was put together. Dive into it and see what you could come away with on the other side.
Written by Ben Cornel
*edited by Kate Erickson