The term “grimdark” — often applied to movies, books, video games, etc., whose storylines and aesthetics are characterized by extreme dystopia and violence — comes from the tagline for the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop wargame: “In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war.” If you’ve dabbled in its extensive mythos even the slightest bit, then you know that Warhammer 40,000 is grim indeed, depicting a galaxy in the throes of never-ending war as humanity’s oppressive theocratic empire and its superhuman soldiers fight a pitched battle for survival against all manner of alien and demonic threats.
Countless people have been inspired by Warhammer 40,000’s dark vision, including Mr. Superman himself, Henry Cavill. Which brings us to Monasterium Imperi. A project of the Serbian-based musician known only as Scorpio V (who’s also released music on the Cryo Chamber label as “Metatron Omega”), Monasterium Imperi has released several albums’ worth of self-described “grimdark chants” inspired by Warhammer 40,000 lore.
Now, I’ve listened to a fair amount of Warhammer 40,000-inspired music, and it’s usually chock full of foreboding chants and ominous industrial rhythms — all perfect soundtrack material for sending your Adeptus Astartes into battle against Orks, Tyranids, or even the corrupted forces of the Ruinous Powers themselves. But Trichurch of Katehon doesn’t feel like that at all. Yes, it’s dark and ominous, but it’s also contemplative and — dare I say? — beautiful.
Trichurch of Katehon’s four instrumentals are filled with monastic chants drifting through layers of lush, mournful synths. All four pass the ten-minute mark, allowing them to envelope the listener and transport them to desolate alien landscapes dotted with battered-yet-majestic ruins. Or as Scorpio V writes in the liner notes, “an immersive ambiental journey into the distant world, where colossal shrines resonate of hymns to the Supreme One” and “ancient hieropriests of Katehon lament and rejoice upon ethereal soundscapes.”
The sci-fi backdrop and Warhammer 40,000 connection may cause some to roll their eyes at the nerdiness of it all. But any and all nerdiness aside, what strikes me most about Trichurch of Katehon is (A) how well-produced and arranged it is and (B) just how affecting its four songs prove to be.
For all of its stately atmospherics, there’s no sense of stasis. Rather, Scorpio V proves quite adept at layering in new elements at just the right pace, which allows these songs to breath and flow naturally while still keeping things interesting. There are even hints of melody and structure within the drift that give the album’s atmospherics a beneficial musicality. And when I say these songs are beautiful, I mean it. Trichurch of Katehon remains grandiose, cinematic, and somber for its entire 48 minutes while touching on the sacred and numinous.
In other words, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know the difference between Ordo Malleus, Ordo Xenos, and Ordo Hereticus. And if names like Kaldor Draigo, Rogal Dorn, Roboute Guilliman, and Sanguinius mean nothing to you, then worry not. If you’re a fan of somber, evocative atmospheric music that brings to mind the very best of the Cold Meat Industry, Cryo Chamber, and Cyclic Law labels, then Monasterium Imperi’s Trichurch of Katehon is must-hear material for you.