Anything or anyone that encourages people to listen to more interesting forms of heavy music has got to be a good thing. That seems to be the theory that motivates Mat McNerney — also known as Kvohst – whose presence on THE DEATHTRIP's second album makes perfect sense and will doubtless, and quite rightly, bring many more people to this deeply weird and hypnotic take on the black metal blueprint than would have otherwise encountered it. Better known as frontman with both GRAVE PLEASURES and HEXVESSEL, McNerney seems only to attach himself to profoundly worthwhile creative endeavors, and "Demon Solar Totem" is as singular and enthralling as any of them.
In reality, this band's instrumental identity is idiosyncratic and compelling enough without the Brit's booming baritone and feral howls, let alone artfully adorned with them. "Demon Solar Totem" is simply one of those records that hammers home the endless malleability of extreme metal and its under-plundered psychedelic and cosmic properties. Although audibly steeped in the ethos and spirit of their native Norwegian scene, THE DEATHTRIP bear no true resemblance to any second or third wave black metal band that spring to mind. The opening title track certainly begins on familiar ground, as a jarring doom riff gives away to some of that irresistibly ice-cold Norse riffing: the devil is very much in the details, however, as even when blasting at full pelt, THE DEATHTRIP seldom pick the chord changes or atmospheric touches that you might reasonably expect. McNerney is unrecognizable from his GRAVE PLEASURES activities, which also imbues this album's grandiloquent starting point with a sense of disturbing otherness, as he rasps and screeches, lost in some infernal reverie. When the chaos ceases and all becomes swamped in rippling dark ambience and dread, McNerney re-emerges as a ghostly chorister, before another tsunami of blastbeats carries him away, magic carpet-like, toward some unexplained spiritual inferno. The dastardly trick is repeated throughout "Demon Solar Totem", but with each song boasting at least one jaw-dropping, brutally off-kilter moment. On a superficial level, the likes of "Abraxas Mirrors" and "Surrender To A Higher Power" tap into the same well of malevolent mysticism that informs MAYHEM's most unconventional moments, but even when graced with one of those eerie, spiraling riffs that were obligatory during the mid-to-late '90s, something as intrinsically wonky as epic closer "Awaiting A New Maker" will always stand out as the characterful and charismatic work of certified mavericks.