Ptahil, which in gnostic mysticism can also be spelled Fetahil, is described as the builder of the material world. Ptahil, the band from Fort Wayne, Indiana, is comprised of drummer/vocalist J. Mhághnuís and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist D. Luathca, and they have been building their world of chaos since 2009. They have created two demos, two EPs, one single and two full-length recordings in that time, the most recent of which, The Almighty Propagator of Doom and Despair, came out December 21, 2012 (defying a predicted Mayan apocalypse).
Both members have also been in and are currently contributing to several other musical projects. Currently, Ptahil is in the process of mixing a third full-length recording called Born Against with Wraith Productions and is slated for release in 2014. But let’s talk about the album at hand.
The Almighty Propagator of Doom and Despair roars forth like a swarming horde from the very first track, “Satanicus Sabbathicus,” which features pummeling drums and an almost industrial black metal atmosphere. Launched with backwards invocation, “Possessed by Death” transitions the listener to a much doomier plane of existence. I can imagine fans chanting along with the refrain here.
The third track “Blood, Semen, Shit”– well, that just about covers the entirety of human existence doesn’t it. This song is a bit more trashy and lyrically will make you “curse all life’s creation”.
Track four, “Mors Aut Libertas,” continues in the somewhat trashy vein. Here, Ptahil builds a wall of sound with heavy guitar distortion and drumming. Lyrically, I think this may capture Ptahil’s spirit. “And what magic was (sic) you trying to summon, stirring up men’s hearts to action? Revolution and change? This is paid in blood. Not by obliging the chains to bind you. Nor by giving up your spark. Raise your fire for All the Gods to see. For your soul to be free.”
“Pact with the Devil” returns to the doom and features some of the most melodic segments of the album. At times, it dips into psychedelic realms! This track trudges along, crushing everything in its path. It is among my favorite songs on the record.
The title track of this album clocks in at nearly 13 minutes, which is long for a black metal song. Yet this epic and multifaceted track builds and builds to a crescendo of rage befitting a title song for this recording. Lyrically, like most Ptahil songs, the themes are simultaneously obscure and evident. “What love can survive and flourish in this realm?” There is deep “gnosis” here, but many people will probably not want to dwell on the possible implications and will be content to simply bang their heads.
Like a freight train plummeting over a cliff, the album’s final track, “Hell Spells and Satanic Rituals,” moves at a break-neck pace and concludes in under two and a half minutes. The album ends with another backwards vocal. A malediction perhaps, rather than a benediction.
Overall, The Almighty Propagator of Doom and Despair will likely leave you satisfied and exhausted, like a good old-fashioned shag. That’s ironic, given the underlying theme of the record that reveals itself through the lyrics. This album may cause you to question your existence and purpose in this shadowy physical plane. That is a mighty accomplishment from little more than 45 minutes of music and should put this record on the watchlist of any follower of American black metal.
On the downside, I am not sure I like the way this recording was mixed (granted I know nothing about this process). I feel like the vocals, which are quite good, get lost under the music. The guitar work sounds indistinct at times. Listening on headphones helps.
I interviewed Mhághnuís via email. Here’s what he had to say about the band, the future and this recording.
What did you set out to achieve with this recording?
Total freedom. To put into light the terrible instinct of human reproduction. As people go on, so goes enslavement.
Where was the recording done and what atmosphere were you trying to create.
Ptahil does all our tracking at our temple/studio. For The Almighty Propagator… mixing and mastering was done here as well. We always try to bring an atmosphere of chaos to our releases. With this release, however, we wanted to bring a manipulated feel. This is what mankind is the best at doing, manipulation. Manipulating other living things. Manipulating the landscape, and nature. This is why the full release could be played both forward and backward. There are specific messages both ways in our own attempts to manipulate the listener to seek out their total freedom by any means necessary.
I heard the band was looking for a bassist. How is that going?
Ptahil is D. Luathca and myself. We are looking for a third to make our magic stronger, at least for live rituals, but we have not found anyone who can both play the music and deal with what Ptahil is about. It takes more than playing the music perfectly. It is about making a specific pact.
I have not heard reverse recording in music for a long time. I suppose the only way you could listen to it would be to get it in vinyl and spin the disc in reverse. Why did you decide to use this?
Well, when this was originally being recorded, the plan was to release it on vinyl. However we did not give a fuck about time constraints, we just worried about doing the release how it felt it should be done. This led to the recording being too long for a standard vinyl pressing by two songs. Our record label (Wraith Productions) received the masters and did not want to exclude the two songs. So we opted to release it on CD. (You can find this and other Ptahil recordings and merch here.)
What plans do you have to tour in support of this record, and how will it be distributed?
We have distribution in Europe through Code 7 with Wraith Prod. People can pick up the releases in stores in Europe. There is limited distribution in America however, (of course) Into The Void Records carries our releases in their store in St. Paul, Minnesota. You can get the releases in the mail through us and Wraith.
Ptahil will be playing THE DEVIL’S COVEN FEST at Station 4 in St. Paul on May 18. This so far is the ONLY show for Ptahil in 2013.
What is on the agenda for the upcoming year?
Ptahil has another release finished and in the mixing stages titled, Born Against, which is to be released through Wraith. We also have 2+ more releases in the rehearsal recording stages. We will start tracking these songs during this year.
D. Luathca has a release recorded playing bass for The Lurking Corpses, which is set for release this year. I have also joined up with Demonic Christ for their two fest appearances for this year and look to be recording their new release this year as well.
Anything else you want to mention?
Demonic Christ will be performing at Cathedral of the Black Goat Fest March 30 and Martydoom Fest June 29-31. Ptahil will be performing at THE DEVIL’S COVEN FEST at Station 4 in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 18. So if anyone hates my guts enough to take my life, there are your three chances.