Eternal Voice of Death’s Mysteries: A Black Metal Mass Review
We’ve got black metal for you, from all over the world.
Funeral Storm – Arcane Mysteries
Dating all the way back to 2001, Funeral Storm did not come into full bloom until much later on, as after only one live show, and several line-up, and name changes from Raven Throne towards Funeral Storm, the band’s primus motor Wampyrion Markhor Necrowolf decided to effectively lay it to rest. This slumber lasted until 2012, when a digi-split with Mortuus Sum was released, and another six-way split on cassette. After a massive compilation featuring all of the bands unreleased material, Wampyrion, aided by members of Serpent Path, decided to forge on with a new sound, indebted to to the 90’s black metal scene of his homeland, Greece.
By the time the Funeral Rite split with Celestial Rite rolled around, the band had once again undergone severe line-up changes, though, perhaps, all for the best, as Stefan Necroabyssious of Varathron, Katavasia and Kawir took the mic-stand. And now, finally, their debut full-length, Arcane Mysteries, is out for the world to experience.
Arcane Mysteries is extremely 90’s Greek black metal and I do not see a reason why any fan of the scene wouldn’t enjoy the album very much, other than the redundancy of sounding extremely alike to 90’s Greek black metal. But such complaints are mostly left to basement-dwelling neckbeards jerking off to the umpteenth interchangeable, cavernous, dissodeath slab o’ crab* anyways.
The jerky rhythms over which the grandiose stop-and-go melodies are harmoniously laden that is synonymous to the early records of Varathron, Rotting Christ and the ilk is heavily present on Arcane Mysteries. Even with keyboardist N. C departed before the recording of the album, and his duties split by Wampyrion and newcomer guitarist Arcania the keyboards still play a heavy role on the record, though supporting. Ranging from quasi-eerily ringing chords on “Necromancer pt.2” through the brief, string-quartet like approach of “Martyr of The Lake” re-recorded form the split, to occasionally taking the melodic lead, as on “Necromancer Pt.1”.
With powerful, but not beefy, separating mix, hefty bass presence, a sharp and clear performance from Necroabyssious, Arcane Mysteries sounds like a modern recording but only in the best way possible. The excellent riffwork keeps engaging throughout the record – to the point where the plentiful interludes are mostly unnecessary. Between the “Invocation of the Great Red Dragon” -intro and “Wandering Though the Abyss” lie only two songs and before the excellent cover – or perhaps, in this context, an update would be a more suitable word – of Varathron’s “Flowers of My Youth”, we get another one. As these are not the shortest kind, but mostly song-length, these can get a little much, especially with the poor placing of the first, though it’s not disrupting of the albums flow.
The Greek scene provided some of the all time best black metal albums, and Funeral Storm shows it’s still top of the line in 2019.
Monarque – Jusqu’à la Mort
Monarque’s strengths do not lie in planning, it would seem. The band’s latest full-length, Lys Noir, was released in 2013, and has only been followed by one song on a four-way split. Years of relative silence, which have been filled with mainman Patrick’s involvement in Sanctuaire, Sacrenoir and Forteresse’s live band, are suddenly being followed with a relative onslaught of new material as a new full-length is about to drop and is being kneaded with an EP.
Jusqu’a la Mort is business as usual for Monarque. Their black metal is akin to many an older band from the Scandinavian scene, and though it lacks the brightness and majesty more common with the Quebecois bands, at it’s most wistful it still recalls them as well. Atmospheric and raw, though cleaner than many other releases by the band Jusqu’a la Mort’s mix lacks the power of Lys Noir or Ad Nauseam and the songs are more straightforward – the title track basically runs on variations of a single melody. Though it does largely lack the varied ambiance Monarque’s earlier works thrived on, at only 22 minutes Jusqu’a la Mort doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and the middle-track “Le Serment Prononcé” features acoustic sections and more tempo and riff changes, flirting with what made Monarque so great six years ago.
While the last track “Le Grand Deuil” swallows approximately half of the EPs length, it unfortunately returns to the title tracks uniform structure but is saved by the guesting Saor violinist Lambert Segura. Jusqu’a la Mort is a fine EP on it’s own, but more of an appetizer meant to arouse hunger for the upcoming full-length than something standing on it’s own legs. A pleasure to listen to, but hardly exciting.
Black Crucifixion – Lightless Violent Chaos
Black Crucifixion’s been around since the early nineties, but never garnered the fame that would befall many a band from those times. Maybe it was the northern location, maybe it was the lack of releases – Black Crucifixion only released a couple of demos in 1991-92, and an EP the following year before falling into a thirteen year hibernation. Even though the featured in their ranks Sodomatic Slaughter and collaborated with Nuclear Holocausto Vengeance, both of Beherit fame, they’ve never been raised to scene darlings, or a cult-legend of any kind. Ever since their 2006 full-length debut, they’ve been left to hone their rather unique take on black metal in relative obscurity.
Lightless Violent Chaos, their fourth album, was originally released a year ago, but is now being internationally re-released by Seance Records. A far cry from the archetypal black metal band, Black Crucifixion excels at longer, multifaceted compositions, taking their time to build atmosphere, arrangement and drama – progressive black metal that owes little to the tropes commonly adopted from progressive rock of old. Except guitarist Rekku Rechardt, who made himself known as the guitarist of Finland’s most famous prog rock band Wigwam from 1974 onwards. On 2013’s Coronation of King Darkness, the shorter and more traditional black metal songs felt, by comparison, a little, if not lethargic, then dull. They were good, but the band sounded so much more passionate on their longer compositions, it flattened the effect the shorter ones had. On Lightless Violent Chaos, thanks in part to a generally craggier approach, the balance is better. “Deathless Be Me”, and “Black Hole Metal” despite lacking length, sees the band venture beyond the conventions of the genre, enthralling with a rhythmically hypnotic riffing, impression that is revisited on the mantra-like “Disclipine”.
Though Black Crucifixion still turns towards their roots when deemed necessary, aggression is not a dominant emotion on Lightless Violent Chaos. Even at it’s most hard-hitting and tremolo riffing it’s more brooding and foreshadowing, than evil or threatening. It’s mystical black metal isn’t concerned with what inwards turned back patters stuck on mythologizing their own past, and past of the scene want to believe black metal was ever about. It’s black metal as Black Crucifixion envisions it, and by now they sound like no other band. Lightless Violent Chaos could still have used another riff or two as gripping as the grooving main riff of “Black Hole Metal”, missing it’s mark with a mere fraction of an inch.
The Crescent – Totuuden Ikuinen Ääni
The Crescent’s journey dates back to 1995, when Viktor Folghdraki and Wrath of True Black Dawn to form Enochian Crescent that would later develop from it’s relatively humble origins to a progressive, hook-laden form of black metal. In 2012, Wrath decided to focus on other projects, and the remaining line-up with new vocalist Tuonenjoki of Desolate Shrine fame, continued under the shortened name The Crescent, to honor Viktor’s and Wrath’s agreement that Enochian Crescent could never exist without the two of them together.
After releasing Risti the following year, the band seemed to fall into a comatose state, eventually arising in 2016 with all kinds of announcements and accusations. Someone had left the band, someone had fired everyone else in the band, someone had no interest in band activity, and so forth, the drama goes on and makes for good headlines, but is of little consequence at the end. What it means that The Crescent has joined the ever-growing group of two separate line-ups with the same name. The one at hand today, is the line-up featuring every original member of The Crescent, sans Viktor.
While it does feel odd to have the band call themselves The Crescent without Viktor – one of the two founders of the band’s original incarnation, it is to be remembered that besides no one here being a new member, everyone apart from Tuonenjoki were already members of Enochian Crescent, some taking part in the songwriting as well.
By and large, Risti was not a great album, though not without it’s moments, so I would say I was fairly eager to see another take on the formula, with a change of balance in the songwriting duties. Chiefly, the songs are aggressive, melodic black metal. Tuonenjoki is a very capable vocalist, and Totuuden Ikuinen Ääni sounds fairly good, plus you’re always going to get points from me for not singing in English, unless your lyrics are super awkward, which they aren’t here, and the songs are as pleasant in the sense that black metal can be pleasant, which is enough to elevate the EP from mere decency. But mostly, the riffs aren’t particularly memorable, well enough when the record’s playing but impossible to relate to after it’s gone, and never strong enough to pluck on heartstrings for any longer period. Which is a shame, since there’s clear potency here.
In a way Totuuden Ikuinen Ääni strips The Crescent of their previous, supposedly prog-like tendencies, sing-along radio hits a’la “Lilitu” and flirtation with extra-marital influences for a more focused sound. Which is all fine and dandy, because although Enochian Cresent had made good use of them, Risti mostly stumbled whenever it tried to play to them. On the other hand, now a much more one-note ensemble, the highlights have a tougher time shining through.
Only “Pimeään Merkitty” with a particularly nasty-sounding riff and surprisingly resolute, clean-sung chorus makes a more lasting impression, standing head and shoulders above the rest. Then there’s the closing title track, which has been, by some others, likened to gothic power ballads. To me, it doesn’t really stand so different from the rest. It’s a slower burning track with serene female vocals leading towards it’s climax. The last album’s – also closing – title track is both the closest point of reference, as well as closer to the initial comparison than “Totuuden Ikuinen Ääni”. But at eight minutes, most of which go nowhere and feature no build-up whatsoever, it’s quick to lose it’s steam, long before the aforementioned vocals by Hanna Sirola make an appearance. Decent EP that’ll serve to get the band’s name out there again, but does little else.
* Or a fucking Nightbringer-lite, of all things possible, gawddamn.