Halloween Special Part II: Itchy-O ‘Sypherlot/Hallowmass’

October 27, 2021

ALBUM PREVIEW/REVIEW: Dominic Valvona
PHOTO CREDITS: Memorandum Media and Michael Rehdish

Itchy-O ‘Sypherlot/Hallowmass: Double Live 2020’
(Alternative Tentacles)  5th November 2021

At their satanic majesty’s pleasure the Denver invocation, and 57-strong collective, Itchy-O decided last year to record for posterity two of their esoteric-industrial-drive-in shows.  If you’ve never set eyes on this immersive spectacle for all the senses, the Itch both resemble and sound like a LED light show and workshop sparked carnival of Holy Mountain Alejandro Jodorowsky, Mad Max, Ministry and a drum rattling regiment from the Mexican day of the dead.

With morbid curiosity this behemoth of a performance ritual have mostly kept recordings to a minimum, with captured live activities popping up either on Youtube or exclusively streamed via a chosen platform. Across an epic scale double-album format, two such chthonian and daemonic concerts appear on wax; the first, Sypherlot, captured an August performance in the “expansive” parking lot of Denver’s Mission Ballroom, the second, Hallowmass, captured a Halloween communal cleansing at the Colorado city’s now demolished New Tech Machinery building. Both occasions took off despite the miasma and restrictions of the pandemic, and both signaled a cathartic and provocative gesture in the last year of Trump’s presidency. Above all, Itchy-O seek to “eviscerate” both old and new ideas of entertainment and live music.

Photo Credit: Memorandum Media

Like a macabre theatre in which various belief systems and deities are called forth, the masked, almost anonymous costumed cast provide a real dark arts sanctuary, which they haven’t always limited to their own pentangle spread arena, but gatecrashed various events, festivals and even appeared onstage with David Byrne and St. Vincent.

Last August’s Sypherlot show (if the recordings are anything to go by) conjured up occult forces from across the globe and time: The MGM back lot sword and sandal meets krautrock doom rumbled march of ‘Saptaloka’ even referenced both Buddhist and Hindu cosmological realms of existence. Growled distorted and fuzzed up metal wielding guitar riffs and scowls, a carnival of lost souls vision of Brazilian samba drum chaos, slithered metallic tentacles and gestured bestial menace prove the order of the day. Under a ‘Blood Moon’ atavistic rituals and mantras receive a regimental rhythmic rattle and deeper thudding bass accompaniment and a vague scent of Haiti, Africa, Arabia. ‘Gallow’s Disco’ shows some…well, gallows humour of a kind as the dead man walking swings and dances to a strange transmogrification of samba drums and whistles – a bit more of that Brazilian carnival of the dammed vibe. By the time we’ve made it through the creeps, ghouls and Biblical scale heavy metal doom rocking drama, we’re led into a primordial soup of ectoplasm grief, wails and ghostly visitations.

Photo Credit: Michael Rehdish

Originally a three-night run last Halloween, the second half of this double-album, Hallowmass, is every bit as supernaturally menacing and esoteric in scope, with its communions with the old gods. In fact, ‘Dance Of The Anunnaki’ makes reference to deities from the ancient world, from the Babylon and Sumerian to the Assyrian. The atmosphere is mystical Tibet, chariots of the gods Maya, Byzantium and alien. Mind you the opening ‘Mystrabia, Under The Lake’ sounds like Jah Wobble meets Sunn O))). With a signature chorus of taiko drummers and devilish sonics the acolytes beat and clatter away whilst tuning into spook radio.  

Monolithic sized Sabbath riffs and flamed tequila shots permeate an often surprisingly rhythmic black mass bonfire night; the meeting point for a ritual burning of the stresses, agonies of such end times. Hallowmass was an opportunity for attendees to hand over artifacts, mementos and representations to be burned and sacrificed, a ceremony to “honour impermanence” and “the loss felt so heavily” during the Covid pandemic.

The car seat audience certainly felt connected, part of these theatrical rites and magick entertainment: You can hear that with through the ad hoc applause of car horns after each mammoth track. Without the visuals, live spark it could all seem flat, disconnected, but sonically this wild double-album is as atmospheric as it gets; a bombastic esoteric circus of doom, torment but also spooked levity – put it this way, I get the impression Itchy-O don’t take themselves too seriously. Released oddly on what will be our Bonfire night celebrations, the album obviously screams Halloween – admittedly the album will be on sale at the collective’s three-night Hallowmass performance this year. Anyway, it’s a great piece of occult, and cult for that matter, musical performance to both enflame and raise the spirits.  

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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