Reptilian – “Phantasm” (Stereogum Premiere)

Perennial Void Traverse, the debut full-length from Norway’s Reptilian, crawls out from the ooze of old-school garages. The quartet play death metal like they’re from a place where the local Possessed was pulled back in to punk. Puffy pirate-shirt prog does not reside here.

That said, Reptilian are sneaky. Their music is kill-everything, but it’s also catchy. Hell, it’s also expansive. Like, night-sky expansive. Like, the-deepest-recesses-of-the-mind expansive. Perennial Void Traverse’s six songs stretch out into marathon sessions where riffs bind together and generate a thick atmosphere, terraforming the OSDM of today and creating something as alive as the first wave.

Frontman Cato Bakke is part of the reason Reptilian loosen OSDM’s rigor mortis. Like Tim Singer or Eugene S. Robinson, Bakke’s intense, wild-eyed delivery draws all ears toward him. Instead of growls, Bakke lets loose feral howls. His performance is unencumbered by any concern for his throat’s longevity. In that way, there’s a sense he has literally found his voice and that he is as surprised as we are listening to him. The novelty doesn’t wear off. Death metal doesn’t demand charisma, but it sure seems irreplaceable when someone goes for it.

And “going for it” is the best way to describe the rest of the band. Guitarist Andreas Fosse Salbu burns through notebook after notebook of riffs and solos like there’s no tomorrow. Daniel Tveit’s drumming is limber, his fills chasing Salbu down sharp turns. Bassist Bard Inge Nygard adds a fattening thump, putting meat on song skeletons built from the bones of death metal classics, Darkness Descends ragers, and My War crawls. What Reptilian make is in their own image, though.

Anyway, we’re dancing around the big thing here: Perennial Void Traverse finishes with a three-song run near the top of this year’s death metal heap. You’ll have to hear the nine-minute endorphin high of “Cadaverous Creature” and the Altered States “Transmigration” in April. “Phantasm” is how that run begins and it’s a hell of a start. The opening section is a sphere flying with the blades out, threatening trepanation. The closer is a tantalizing storm of distortion teasing things to come. Listen.

Perennial Void Traverse is out 4/22 via Edged Circle Productions.

Tags: Reptilian