(Description by J. Campbell)
Like Leviathan, Lurker of Chalice is a project conceived of and executed by multi-instrumentalist and visual artist Jef Whitehead, who is generally referred to as Wrest in the context of his music. For nearly 20 years, through his work with Leviathan, Lurker of Chalice, and many other projects, Whitehead has consistently recorded and released music that has unquestionably left permanent scars on the face of the USBM scene. To call Lurker of Chalice a Leviathan side-project would be inaccurate. Though Leviathan is far more prolific and widely known, Wrest’s recordings under the Lurker of Chalice banner are just as earnest and extraordinary. Indeed, to many, the Lurker of Chalice material represents the zenith of Wrest’s vast and superb body of work. The self-titled Lurker of Chalice album, which came out in 2005, was the only widely circulated recording associated with the project, the two previous demos only being released in very limited quantities. The album garnered massive praise before swiftly going out of print, practically ensuring its stature as a cult masterpiece. It would be too simplistic to categorize this album as mere Black Metal because it sweeps so broadly across the musical spectrum; however, even when Wrest strays farthest from Black Metal in a stylistic sense, the sensations and emotions the music conjures are every bit as visceral. Born of true despair, the oppressive weight of anguish looms over the album. A genuine sense of oblivion permeates the atmosphere created by this collection of songs that, taken together, chart a course through the bleakest stations of the soul. Following a comparatively brief introductory track, the album opens with “Piercing Where They Might,” one of two songs on the album that were featured on the “Lurker of Chalice” demo released in 2002. The song begins with what might be the brightest passage on the album, featuring delicate guitar work accentuated by the sounds of birds in the background—this proves to be the first and last glimpse of light the listener will have—before it abruptly shifts, plunging over the blackened horizon into ever more depressive regions. A warped repetitive riff of slow bending notes carries the momentum of the song, causing a temporal distortion as it’s woven into the latticework of a steady blast beat moving four times faster—like the anxious constancy of one’s breath over the percussive fervor of one’s heartbeat. Only one other track, “Granite,” which was also featured on the 2002 demo, can really be described as something like traditional Black Metal, with assertive drums like railroad tracks guiding the movement of the song beneath a canopy of guitars, synthesizers, and ethereal vocals. As the album progresses, its lonely and bruised meanderings persist through stylistic and compositional variations that maintain the album’s allure—from the Funeral Doom aesthetics of “Minions” through the haunting echo chamber of despair evoked by “Paramnesia” to “This Blood Falls as Mortal Part III,” which features a Sylvia Plath spoken word sample amid a melancholy interplay of Eno-esque sustained guitars and synthesizers, to the Neofolk evocations of “Vortex Chalice,” before culminating with the sorrowful ardor of “Fastened to the Five Points.” The album closes unceremoniously, leaving the listener fractured and depleted. At the time of its release, no other album sounded quite like this one, and it’s no exaggeration to say that no comparable release has emerged in the last 12 years since “Lurker of Chalice”; the album truly occupies its own shade along the ever-expanding spectrum of Black Metal. NWN! is honored to present this new edition of “Lurker of Chalice,” which will include the bonus track featured on previous vinyl editions of the album. Additionally, NWN! will be working with Wrest to unearth and remaster some previously unreleased Lurker of Chalice material for future releases.