Double Black: IC Rex and Front Beast
A double shot *Pkew Pkew* of black metal reviews.
IC REX – TULEN JUMALAT
Between 2003 and 2009, IC Rex brought three records in the world, full of black metal straddling the line of raw, aggressive, riff-led music and a noisy, atmospheric style. While not immaculate, their (his) dedicated, Luciferian black metal carved a piece of it’s own that few others have ever pursued. In 2015, Artifex IC sought to create a new project, but Saturnian Mist/Saturnal Records boss fra. Zetekh convinced him the material sounded like IC Rex and voila – the band was reborn. As far as I am concerned, Tulen Jumalat had a lot to live up to, and not exclusively due to their first runs material, but also due to the split Valonkantajan Alkemia with Saturnian Mist, released soon after the rebirth. Spoiler: I didn’t like it. IC Rex’s material lacked the sharpest edge, previously heard in anthems like “Luciferin Miekka” and “Union In Death”, but the real problem was Saturnian Mist – a band I’ve never really liked very much – having their songs alternate with IC Rex’s. Rendering the split nigh unlistenable.
The first song proper on Tulen Jumalat, “Ilmarinen” both continued right off where the split had left and managed to please me. An atmospheric track that required a few plays to really sink in (more so than the rest), but ultimately finds that excellent balance between the band’s two sides. Follow-up “Melek-Taus” hearkens back to those days of yore featuring piercing, tremolo-picked maladies and triumphant synths to boot. The band (also featuring fraters Vile and CVV on drums and solo guitar respectively) finishes their trinity with “Heimdall” a more synth-heavy piece, again trading between cold riffs and atmosphere-building sections.
It, however, also begins to show the first signs of weakness. Firstly, it’s seven-minute run time feels extended. A problem almost every song on the album faces, most songs feel like they drag on twice as long as they actually do. The second is the synth-work. Sure, ’tis an important piece in the puzzle, but whereas the band used to be loud in a raw, noisy way, Tulen Jumalat is so in an un-dynamic way that places the synths in the front and effectively buries the guitar much too often. Towards the end of the 48-minute record, fatigue begins to settle in due to the muddled, thoroughly unison sound. A problem only fortified b the fact the synth’s are barely doing anything of note when left to their own devices. Mostly droning on, or repeating a simplistic, near-droning, melody over and over again, at the expense of nearly everything else. At least the solos stand out more this way. Tulen Jumalat is more torn than balancing between the two sounds, but all in all, the pros over-weigh the cons (if barely).
3/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
If you like the record, you can get it through Saturnal Records, although Artifex IC would prefer if you’d find another channel. Sharing band drama is not the best in life (more lamentations, please) – but IC Rex has parted ways with the label, Saturnian Mist-men have departed form the live line-up (and pressured their mate to do so too) and it would seem, had IC Rex kicked out of a very special show. Again, fuck drama, but in a situation a simple apology might’ve corrected, and the band’s specific request to not get the album through the easiest channel (try this), I figured I ought to. Also because it lead to Artifex streaming some live videos on the IC Rex- Facebook page.
FRONT BEAST – THIRD SCOURGE FROM THE DARKNESS
On a somewhat happier note, the German black metallers, Front Beast are putting out their third record since their founding in 1999. That’s not much of a speed, though the band has released a multitude of smaller releases in between each record. One of the reasons for this may lie in vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Avenger keeping a good dozen of other bands up and running as well, but on the other hand, speed doesn’t exactly seem to be Front Beast’s forte. Third Scourge from The Darkness unfolds through cold, melodic riffs on “Journey To Golgotha”, and develops into a maelstrom of rocking guitarwork, malicious screams – with an occasional hint of desperation and plodding drumming. Mostly, all 8 songs follow a similar formula, which does get overbearing towards the end of the 50-minute record. Especially as throughout it’s run-time, Third Scourge… alternates between the higher and lower registers of mid-tempo, rarely letting itself go – beyond moments like five minutes into “Purity In ashes”, but these moments are infrequent – and even then, Front Beast does not blast. Which I find more welcome a departure from the usual than anticipated. Likewise Avenger only slows down for a second or two at a time – keeping the songs interesting enough to justify their long-ish run-times – but not diverse enough for any to truly stand out.
For a black metal record, Third Scourge from the Darkness sounds great; crude and distorted, but more on the clear than the raw side. The songs haven’t been filled with tinny guitars, which leaves room for an audible bass, which, despite not doing anything terribly interesting on it’s own, is another welcome addition to the fold. Of course, we’re talking about black metal so it’s mostly up the individual, how unintelligible they want their albums. Whatever the case, I find myself drawn to the record’s natural sound more the chaotic mess of, oh so many others.
Front Beast is at it’s best on the more melodic parts, but maintains a good balance of elements throughout, the only thing Third Scourge from The Darkness really suffers from being it’s length. One songs less, and it may have been worthy of a higher score, but as it stands it’s worthy of a