Album review – Spectral Wound – A Diabolic Thirst

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Over the years Quebec has developed a reputation for being one of the most prolific locations for quality black metal and Montreal’s SPECTRAL WOUND have risen to the pinnacle of the Quebec Black Metal scene with their virulent, searing, towering melancholic take on the genre.

With their new album A Diabolic Thirst, which follows 2018’s Infernal Decadence, the band take their own methodology of Quebecois black metal through vicious sonic layers that culminate in six triumphant ferocious hymns where blood-freezing melodies and harsh yet massive overtones bring a decadent and euphoric flow to the record.

A Diabolic Thirst is the band’s third album and first for Profound Lore Records. Recorded and mixed by guitarist Patrick McDowall the album contains a raw yet immense sound. The guitars are vicious in their tone, the drums have an energy and clarity to them and the bass is weightier and far more pronounced than in a lot of black metal recordings. In my opinion, this is very much a good thing. I’ve never been a fan of the deliberately low-fi production so beloved of many fans of the genre.

But it’s Jonah Campbell’s frankly superb shrieks that really solidify the band’s obscure, unforgiving sound. Although the band stays very true to Black Metal’s rule book with screeching vocals and tremolo guitar riffs, the vocals are so intense and relentless that the result is a record that is elevated above the norm.

I have to say though that listening to A Diabolic Thirst from front to back is by no means a draining experience like so many of their contemporaries. In amongst the ferocity, there is a sense of harmony and musicality that keeps the listener engaged. Indeed this could work well as a good introduction to the genre for those who may be put off by bands whose work can be difficult to latch on to for those new to this extreme music.

But this is still intense stuff with evident respect for both Black Metal’s legends and the bands carrying the genre forward. Although Spectral Wound does away with many of the more theatrical elements associated with the genre (no corpse paint here folks), the songs found on this album still stay faithful to the music that defined the scene. For the most part, these six tracks stick with the strong aggressive atmosphere you’d expect. Mausoleal Drift is one exception. At over ten minutes in length, it’s the longest track and brings a more glacial pace before cranking up the ferocity towards the middle of the song. 

A Diabolic Thirst is another black metal triumph emanating from Canadian soil and captures that pure classic melodic black metal essence that was eminent in the late ‘90s/very early ‘00s while serving its purpose as one of the apex black metal releases of the year.

Let’s hope we get to witness these songs live in Montreal very soon.

Steve Gerrard

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