In the formative days of the death metal underground, one of the most enjoyable parts of fan discovery was stumbling across a band that seemingly came out of nowhere. Québec's Chthe'ilist aren't exactly from nowhere, but then again the suburb of Longuiel isn't exactly regarded as a death metal stronghold. Nevertheless, the duo's unpronounceable 2012 demo, Amechth'ntaas'm'rriachth, proves again that the Québécois mindset is always fertile ground for metal that is both punishing and clever in equal measures.
Much like his heroes in Demilich, vocalist/guitarist Phil Tougas has created a unique language for both the songs and the band's name, one which evokes the arcane wordcraft of the late, great HP Lovecraft. The concepts are eldrich, the names are unspeakable, and the music follows suit. Each song articulates a strange, fantastical realm full of formless creatures and hidden horrors. It's a perfect soundtrack for a late-night reading of "Call of Cthulhu", but even the uninitiated will be readily won over by the charismatic weirdness of the material.
Tougas croaks his way over his tangled riffs while drummer Phil Boucher hammers out a chain-fed bossa nova, and the cumulative result is a grand example of classic death metal experimentation before too much formatting got in the way. The songs are not fractured or incoherent by any stretch, but there are still plenty of unconventional moves that put Chthe'ilist in a very small circle of innovators. The aforementioned Demilich is a strong influence, along with other Finnish greats like Demigod and Adramelech, but there's also a fair amount of imprinting from the much-underrated (but increasingly rediscovered) Timeghoul. It's not death metal by the numbers, but rather an atmospheric concept piece that is as crushing as it is esoteric. Like most classical music, you might come away feeling a little smarter after listening to it.
The short version is that Amechth'ntaas'm'rriachth is a great release by any standard, and considering that the band has made it available for free, there's really no excuse to not give it a listen (in fact, a the entire demo is embedded in the Youtube link above). There have been plenty of new bands on the scene that are striking a blow for death metal revitalization, but Chthe'ilist has made their initial mark in the classic fashion of their culture by exercising care and conviction in the creative process and then letting the results speak for themselves. Word is that they've got a full-length in the works, and it's a safe bet that if they remain on this twisted path, they'll amass a dedicated cult of believers in short order.