We metal fans know, flat-out know, that our genre is by-far the most intellectual. Deep, serious and thoughtful subjects abound. Sure, there is plenty of cheese, sophomoric displays of overt sexuality and poseur satanic stuff, but this is largely a mentally stimulating genre. Thy Shining Curse is a fine example. I learned a new word (or 10!) from them. The main new word – hierurgical – meaning the theology of or related to sacred rites – is the album’s theme. Each song is supposed to evoke or encourage a connection to the divine. Let’s see if they do!
Theurgin begins the album with haunting non-verbal female vocals over orchestral music. This is labeled as their intro, which I suppose it is, but it would be more accurate to call it the Overture, as this is setting the tone for what’s to come. It’s very beautiful and as it builds, the excitement does as well. Am I sensing a Symphonic Death Metal adventure?
Abyssaoth starts off frolicking with fast and fun “chugging” riffs familiar to Death Metal fans, soon joined by the orchestral elements. They mesh quite nicely with the metal. This is a speedy tune that has me in its grips until… The Jazz interlude?! Oy. I’m not a fan of much that would be considered progressive: time changes or complete mid-song genre changes. I love symphonic elements laced into metal, but… Jazz..onic… elements? In the very paraphrased words of the book version of Gollum, when Sam tells him about the scary and dangerous oliphants: “Scott has not heard of Jazz-onic metal. He does not want to hear it. He does not want it to be.” True, all true, but the song soon picks up steam again and off we go! We’ll talk about this later after I’ve calmed down a bit.
Straight-forward Death Metal forms the base of Aesahaet. Low guttural vocals are combined here and there with beautiful vocals and arrangements. Some of those moments are provided by female vocals that come soaring in mid-song, adding depth. Her vocals are good/very good, if not truly great. That’s a small nit to pick, and doesn’t really detract from the song.
If something sacred or worshipful is the goal, they accomplished that with Acephale, the fourth song, because this is Septicflesh worship! The song begins somewhat low-key with less interesting arrangements. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the song; it’s a well done but simply more standard piece. A standard piece that ends beautifully…ends very Septicfleshly! That’s high praise, as Septicflesh is one of my favorite bands and masters of the Symphonic Death genre.
It’s with that beautiful end of Acephale that this album takes off and doesn’t look back. Lenore is next and it’s a speedy song with great vocals; some of the best vocal hooks on the album. I can (mostly) understand the words and they work well with the arrangements. Another highlight is a very nice guitar solo. The band handle their instruments with high levels of skill.
Moving from strength to strength, Heptacletus has a strong piano intro and holy cow, the listener could imagine this one smack-dab in the middle of a Fleshgod Apocalypse album. Between Septicflesh and Fleshgod Apocalypse I’m sensing a theme – not quite imitation – but obvious influences. Of course every metal band alive has influences and those two are among Thy Shining Curse’s. Fleshgod Apocalypse is very dense and it takes a couple of listens, at least, to catch some of the themes and pick up on the layers of their music. That’s not necessarily a bad thing at all, it’s just that they might be considered more challenging; you have to pay attention. l find Thy Shining Curse more accessible. You can listen while doing something like finishing your laundry or slicing the flesh (theme!) of chicken thighs for your hungry family.
Heptacletus has insanely good songwriting, interesting vocals and backing vocals. The orchestral instruments are wonderfully played and, much like how a pinch of salt brings out the sweet in a dessert, the orchestral arrangements bring out the heavy in this song. This is a banger! If the guitar solo on the last song was good, this one is great. This stands as the album’s top track and it’s even seasoned with the tasteful, timely addition of bells! Heptacletus shows the quality of this band and points to the future they have.
New wonders abound! Now we are treated to horns that draw us into the seventh and final song: Melmoth. Horn intros are a sign of gravitas: we know this is going to be serious. Deep, low deathly growls layered with deep spoken parts lend atmosphere. Underneath it all for much of the song is a lovely piano melody. Finally, we ride the crest of a crescendo that is the perfect ending of both song and album.
Our beloved genre is fascinating in that the heavier and more extreme it gets, the more beauty the music seems to create. People may say Motley Crue, Dio, Pantera or Stryper “rock!” or are “awesome, bro!” But I never hear those bands described as “beautiful.” In Fight Club, Edward Norton’s character badly beat up a pretty-boy because he “felt like destroying something beautiful.” With Theurgia, Thy Shining Curse apparently felt like making something beautiful.
If Fleshgod Apocalype’s King is peak Michael Jordan, then I would say Theurgia is Thy Shining Curse’s fourth-year Kobe Bryant. Out of tens of millions of 80s/90’s kids who wanted to be like Mike, Kobe was the one guy who came the nearest. By his fourth year Kobe was clearly on that quasi-MJ path. We have no idea who the members of Thy Shining Curse really are. They formed in 2021. They purposely keep their identities under wraps to help foster a sense of mysterium. They want to be cryptic… esoteric. Are they grizzled genre vets, or new kids? I don’t know. Either way, they are on their way. They have given me quite a pleasant surprise and with that, a dilemma: I’m a middle-aged man with a collection I want to keep under control, but even with my tough vetting process and despite that brief infuriating detour into “Jazzonic” metal I think this album will find its way onto my CD shelf.
Scott’s Score: 8.5/10
Release: 16.02.2024, ViciSolum Productions
- Theurgia (Intro)
Thy Shining Curse are:
Leonidas – Keyboards, Orchestration Gabe Pietrzak – Lead/Rhythm Guitars Cezar Moreira – Vocals