Baphometic Chaosium is one of those releases I was really looking forward to. I reviewed their last album, The Extra-Dimensional Wound, and though I wasn't nuts about it, there were many bright spots that kept my interest piqued. Baphometic Chaosium presents us with a slightly different sound and production than Wound had. The low end has pretty much evaporated, being replaced by drums that cut through but sound obviously sampled. The bass is clearly audible when not following the guitar, but is otherwise indistinguishable. There are spots, most notably right off in the title track, where Menno works his fingers to the bone with DiGiorgio-like patterns before the song lurches into blackened grimness, but aside of that, the punchy, speaker-shaking bass is not there. The vocals alternate between your typical growl and scream to some strange gothy spoken voice that really doesn't work for me. The lack of vocal hooks slow the progress of some of the songs too, it's as if many of the patterns are random and have no relation to the music. The drums and guitars aren't doing anything groundbreaking for the most part, but they suffice. The big thing missing are the thrash breaks that sort of made them the opposite side of the coin from Skeletonwitch. Baphometic Chaosium is much more of a traditional black metal album than Wound was.
The album is a slow starter, with very little momentum happening until the staggering, wavy riffage of Psychic Waters comes in, stumbling and bending in a strange psychedelic pattern over a headache-inducing blast beat. It sounds like your ears are being attacked by a swarm of drunken bees. It's probably the catchiest riff on Baphometic Chaosium, but the album doesn't peak there. It picks back up on the last three songs which show just how capable LSoD are at their craft. The driving mutli-rhyhmic R'Lyeh Wurm stands in contrast to the more atmospheric and droning Epicyclarium before closing strongly with Oaken Chrysalis.
I feel this is more consistent than their previous album, but it's still not there for me yet. Half of the record is unremarkable to me, but the songs that do stand out do so convincingly. I'm a sucker for improvement and I hope this band continues to carve their path through primeval territory, rather than play it somewhat safe and fall back on traditional black metal riffs and chord progressions and rhythms that have little individual personality to them. I still scored it high, because those four songs I dig on the album are really good, and make up for the rest which are just seemingly there with little purpose.
Overall, this is not a bad release, and it definitely will have no trouble finding its audience. Considering many USBM bands just aren't all that good, LSoD are way ahead of the pack. I like that many of their riffs and tracks are uncomfortable-sounding and not instantly catchy. Good black metal has a subtlety that only by listening through the noise, one can appreciate. That being said, Chaosium still has a bit of an identity crisis and vacillates too much between great songs and mediocre songs. Definitely worth a few spins, though.