One of the UK's best kept filthy secrets, CALLIGRAM, have really slammed their withered hearts down on the table here. Seemingly recorded during a time of great personal turmoil, "The Eye Is The First Circle" is the kind of album that can only reinforce the link between heavy music and emotional catharsis. This is a dark, angry and troubled record, with even the most melodic moments arriving besieged by howling feedback and microtonal clashes. At times, CALLIGRAM sound collectively possessed: the sheer ferocity that they employ to deliver "Vivido Perire"'s lightning D-beat attack is startling, while the barbarous freeform churn of post-metal freak-out "Anedonia" sounds like a band in the grip of a mass psychic meltdown.
Underneath the electrified anguish, however, lies a truly inventive and consistently face-flaying extreme metal band, with deep roots in all manner of underground crustiness, from the most brittle, lo-fi black metal to the grotesque muscularity of post-INTEGRITY hardcore. Opener "Carne" erupts with a haughty, old-school death metal flourish, slows to a moribund plod and then lets loose an insane storm of blastbeats, as unhinged shrieks and howls fill what little space is left in the sonic foreground. It's a weirdly uplifting tornado of nihilistic noise, but there are more traditional metal sensibilities at work here too, via a steady succession of gnarly, angular doom riffs and a subtle but unmistakable knack for nasty, insidious hooks. Black metal clangor and more machine-gun clatter dominate the first half of "Serpe", while a woozy descent into soporific sludge provides "The Eye…" with one of its most unsettling, disorientating moments. "Kenosis" follows a similar pattern, beginning with an all-out speed assault, before evolving into crushing, syncopated riff slurry with a dash of SWANS-like percussive heavy-handedness making the song's grim impact even greater.
Fuck me, this is horrible stuff, but closer "Un dramma vuoto e insanabile" does at least veer away from horror and into melancholy, offering a moment of tense respite at the end of one of the most viscerally thrilling and twisted records you'll hear this year.