Architecture is one of the few appreciable traits a church can possess, with their arched and lofty features often capturing a gothic splendor, and now an eminent order in the USA has gathered similar artistic forms within a blackened aural medium. After eleven years of relative silence, NEGATIVE PLANE returns to embody the imposing peaks and shadowy depths of a cursed cathedral, and its construction, ominously titled The Pact…, is a true marvel to behold. Classic methods from different eras are channeled through a contemporary spirit, and they evoke a dynamic setting through ambient and instrumental currents, along with labyrinthian melodic courses pursued across other orchestrated varieties. These hymns prove NEGATIVE PLANE hasn’t been idle behind the veil, and The Pact… seizes concentrated portions of madness and dread from beneath the catacombs.
A fiery melodic focus drives the accursed manifestation on “A Work to Stand a Thousand Years,” with the noted flux reflecting endless corridors across a series of passages, and their tortuous haunts progress effectively in time with grooved and blast-beaten paces. Different cooperative interactions between those elements produce frenzied or flowing impressions, and enchantment takes hold during lead points while other intricacies expand into heavier riff structures. These employ bends and vibratos alongside hammer-pull techniques to evoke forms in the vein of early BLACK SABBATH, but galloping and thrashy varieties bring them to levels of modern extremity before reaching “Poison and the Crucifix,” where an arpeggiated entry leads to the melodies coursing through a rhythmic myriad. Some areas are enhanced when ambience creeps into the air, and here its presence within a section of notes elevated over blast beats demonstrates that impact. Other strange effects also appear throughout, including a cavernous glimpse on the previous track, and ending vibrations on this successor carry an alien likeness, along with thundering strikes amid the percussive complications transferring to “Three Turns to the West.” A prominent thrash influence is exercised in its riff before the meandering paths weaved by melody are infused with further ambient spells, and dual layers evolve toward a culmination of soloing and turbulence for an immense completion.
The eerie recesses of a chapel are conjured instrumentally on “The Wailing of the Immured,” and this haunting interlude combines violins with other clean-stringed entities to offer a brief but disturbed calm. Madness resumes in the notes of “Even the Devil Goes into the Church,” and a riffing multitude unfolds after its tremolo and blasting surge, with classic rocking gallops and strides that lead toward a circulating melodic entrancement. An aura emerges before the captivation of a deeper melody soars into soloing, and its dark majesty persists in overlapping currents that extend seemingly into eternity. The vocals maintain a cryptic delivery throughout, and different expressions including whispers or disembodied shrieks occasionally enhance the tale. These echo here alongside rising riff vibrations before clean strings return for a desolate opening of “The Other Door,” where a bass pulse conspires with psychedelic strums and funereal organ keys to convey otherworldly realms beneath the foundation, and its atmospheric dynamism converts to heavy noted forms giving further homage to the forefathers while leadwork reaches euphoric heights. Fretted haste endures as accented energies pierce through the continuum, along with the incorporeal choirs appearing in its midst, and intricate designs magnify the doom progressing toward a final encounter with fate on “And So It Came To Pass.” Creeping shapes and various ambient tones create a massive elemental sense of confronting some untold horror, and the riffage crushes and drives these forces into a relentless procession of detailed patterns. Its cumulative impact drifts into a ghostly course, and evocative leadwork soon fades into the shadows.
A series of events surrounding the church unfolds lyrically, and its initial formation is recorded during two parts on “A Work to Stand a Thousand Years,” with “Spires that seem to touch the clouds” forming in “The Vision” before “Scores of the young and old must break their backs and be crushed beneath the wheels” during “The Work.” This gruesome construction involves “Piling the dead and filling the trenches” while also “Grinding their bones to make from them mortar,” and doom is inflicted once its doors finally open after forty years on “Poison and the Crucifix.” The architect was suspected to be “In league with the evil one,” and he designed the place so that “The first to enter will be surely damned” without steadfast faith. A flawed bishop aims to avoid this outcome by sending his dog in first, “But the Father of Lies could not be deceived, and turned the hound’s anger on the arrogant priest.” The animal “Lunged and tore the throat” until running “Like lightning deep into the crypts,” and this is where a mysterious door and “Hidden way into the catacombs” first appears. A monk searching for answers is lured beyond that threshold on “Three Turns to the West” and finds himself “By the altar of the Penitent,” where Abraham is referenced in a test of faith as he plunges “The knife into the chest.” This was a mistake that “Can never be undone,” and he is deemed a lunatic with “The knife still in his hand…His habit stained with blood…” The existence of another “Secret below the chapel” is then uttered when he succumbs to an end reserved for heretics.
One hundred and fifty years pass until a dialogue is scripted on “Even the Devil Goes into the Church” between the Caretaker and a Traveler, who wishes stay at the church in exchange for wisdom on “Both the known and the hidden.” His “Endless search for the Garden of Eden” is disclosed along with claims of being from times “When the prophets walked the earth,” and he then mentions the monk from the previous track “Who found beneath our feet a dark place of worship none who live have ever seen.” The Caretaker responds by commanding the “Madman” and “Demon” to leave, but can’t resist entering that mysterious area himself on “The Other Door,” and it seems the wrong response was triggered as “Below my feet then opened up a chasm in the earth…” This leaves him trapped in “The catacombs below the crypts,” where “Only darkness and illusions” are seen, and madness is perceived when questioning their possible reality and waiting “To be found or to die.” Faith is challenged as the Traveler looks down and tells him “If you have still faith enough, the angels will surely then raise you up,” or else to “Ask the Devil instead for this is his domain.” The Caretaker follows this direction and is left to demise as the Traveler closes the door.
A vicious cycle is apparent on “And So It Came To Pass,” with the younger of two brothers killed by the eldest in order to steal their father’s inheritance, and this also invokes another biblical reference involving Cain and Abel. It turns out this family lived in a home built around the surviving tower of “The corrupted chapel of horrors,” which was “Set ablaze” at some point, and now its designer returns to possess his descendant, leading the older brother up into the tower to “Continue my work” and “Undo this disgrace.” The architect’s remains are discovered during a final scene as the brother is “Engulfed in flames,” and “Laughter filled the burning tower” while smoke carried insanity up toward the heavens. This lyrical approach captures intrigue by portraying infernal power and supernatural mystery, along with violence and derangement surrounding spiritual trials through its storytelling, and other possible references can be found that inspire further exploration.
NEGATIVE PLANE has rematerialized with a vengeance on The Pact…, and its decisively expansive songwriting leaves a lasting mark for this year while capitalizing on their past achievements. The tombs here are endless, with many mysteries still awaiting discovery even after many ventures, and attempts to follow all the intricate melodic combinations interwoven through percussive and riffing patterns can easily become daunting. This is a welcome challenge, however, and the euphoric variations conjured by leadwork merge with other dark atmospheric shades to seal an experience beyond earthly gratification. The harmonization of pioneering and current blackened influences is also notable, and their density crafts a foreboding temple that will draw many returning spirits. Despite the deep void between creations, along with the CD release bringing further delays, The Pact… possesses material to justify the wait, and it will surely elevate NEGATIVE PLANE to the next level of renown.