Review: Dødsleie, Immortal Hand (Subversive Craft/Bat Magick, 2022)

Like Dødsleie's debut back in 2018, the existence of Immortal Hand surfaced rather discreetly in recent months. I'm assuming the band's lineup has remained intact, in which case—for those unfamiliar—the contributing musicians would be Rob Orr (Unreal City, ex-Integrity, etc.), Niklas Holm (Broken Cross, Wanton Attack, etc.), and Brent Bubash. Recorded back in August of 2020, Immortal Hand is a slightly shorter outing that presents seven songs of raw, atmospheric black metal in 23 minutes. There's a little bit more of a bite to the sound, but it definitely retains some density, and you can actually hear the basslines on occasion, too.

The dissonant, midpaced crawl of "Where the Truth Grows" makes for a strong opener, accented by subtle synths and piano. The vocals wrestle beneath fairly aggressive effects that create the interesting illusion of a single vocal passage layering and interacting with itself as delay reverberates and decays. This segues almost seamlessly into "Spewing Curses," which amps up the chaotic air of discordance with swirling layers of nasty vocal snarls, while guitars gradually fade out to reveal an underlying melody of murky synths—further illustrating that Dødsleie are clearly not repeating themselves.

My personal favorite, "Realm of the Unknown," opens with a faster gallop and some thrashy picking patterns with gnashing chord phrasings somewhat more "traditional" of the genre, but I can't deny that they really hit the spot before giving way to surprisingly dense arpeggiated runs—a definite standout!

"The Strongest Potion" changes things up in a major way, however, with N.W.O.B.H.M. riffing filtered through that G.I.S.M. circa Military Affairs Neurotic type of vibe—of course delivered under the sheen of black metal, with a dash of piano and watery arpeggios to boot. The aesthetic shift of this riffing style makes an undeniable impact, and the song totally jumps out as another key highlight.

In keeping with the debut, almost half of the album consists of experimental compositions: "Paranoid Form IV," a percussive six-minute dark ambient piece; "Toodle-loo," a relatively quick synth fragment that has more of a horror film sensibility; and the closing title track, which offers a noisy blend of ambience and droning guitar melodies—quite nice.

Limited to just 300 copies on sleek black vinyl, the LPs are packaged in a mysterious manner to the degree that there's a total absence of extraneous information. Stripped down artwork, song titles, mastering credits: that's it! No insert, no mention of the band members, etc. So, one must assume that the sounds are intended to do the work herein...

...and through that work, they succeed. If the current pace suggests we might be due for another cryptically disseminated Dødsleie album around 2026, I'll be waiting...

Get It