Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Sanctum of Human Darkness

Tenebrous Towers, last year's Desolate Shrine debut album, caught me by surprise. A band seemingly coming out of nowhere, skipping the usual underground demo stage, would normally make me cautious. And cautious I was when I first listened to the record. Then I listened to the damned thing again. And then I listened once more, this time paying the proper attention. By then, I had already put all my preconceptions aside and it took months until I reduced the frequency of listening to the record.
With their second strike, titled The Sanctum of Human Darkness, expectations were high. Fortunately these expectations were met. The a monstrous work of death metal, that stands miles away from any trends might plague the scene these days. Furthering the scope of their debut, Desolate Shrine come with their spears sharpened, producing a barrage of claustrophobic death metal with a black heart. The band creates a thick and suffocating atmosphere that demands your full attention in order to unveil all the layers and see and feel clearly under the reverb and the cavernous labyrinth that forms the eight songs that form The Sanctum of Human Darkness. At times the result can be almost transcending. There is no point at trying to describe the darkness this record emanates. It has to be felt and experienced at full. 
The only reference point that could come to mind while first listening to The Sanctum...was Aeternus' Dark Sorcery EP from 1995, in regard of the extremely dark atmosphere that threatens to engulf the listener as it comes crawling from all corners. In days that death metal suffers from boring repetition, Desolate Shrine can be a slab of rejuvenating energy to the genre. In coclusion and as a link with the previous post, it seems that the sinister forces have returned at last. 
Absolutely magnificent and essential.

The angels' trumpets sound like the coming of darkness and death. And ironically (and fittingly?) enough, while I am typing these lines, word comes that a close and loved relative of mine just died. May his soul now rest. 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The return of the sinister forces

If someone that is into black metal was to take a break and crawl into his lair for a couple of months, he would find himself in front of several (un)pleasant and darkly delightful surprises by the time he would decide to crawl back into the autumn half-light. 
Trying to put some of the noteworthy releases that have captured my attention this last few months, I would have to start with non other than Ofermod and their second full length, Thaumiel. One of the progenitors of the orthodox black metal wave that took the underground by storm some years back,  giving the much needed rotten and disgusting kiss of life to a stagnant and safe genre, returns with a record that already divides opinions and will probably do so more in the future.

Tiamtü, their first proper album, worked in me like a slowly acting poison. My first response to it was somewhat lukewarm as it was nothing like I expected it to be like. I realise that I wasn't the only one within that frame of mind. Most of the people were expecting something along the lines of  Mystérion Tés Anomias and Tiamtü was a beast that was rising standing strong on its own feet. Given time and after persistent listening the record revealed its horrible fruits that made it the classic that (at least) I consider it to be today. Above every other attribute, above the darkness and passion that record emanated, what made it stand above the pile of contemporary releases, was the infectious power of the songs. One of the rare occasions that one can use the word 'songs' talking about black metal, instead of talking about 'tracks'. Songs and riffs that would stay in your mind after the first few listenings. Infecting it, poisoning it, making you come back for more. The ones that didn't give the record a chance lost the opportunity to breath some of the air of a modern classic. Their fucking loss.

Thaumiel now works in a different way. It acts in a much more instant manner. After all, everyone should know by now, that expecting a repetition of Mystérion Tés Anomias would be pointless. Yes, there are already plenty of morons that wish that Ofermod would go fourteen years back to make them happy. But Ofermod do not exist to please such moronic demands. Thaumiel continues from the point we were left after Tiamtü's last echoes. More ritualistic that its predecessor, with an equally competent execution, exuding the dark magic feeling it aims to, staying away from the plastic modern standards,  Thaumiel rekindles the black flame in the heart of black metal. One more jewel on this years black crown that shines with records from Mgła, Dødsengel, Svartidauði and a worthy competitor for them all.

The list that follows contains some of the releases that I consider to be at the same level as Thaumiel and there will possibly be further reference in the future.
Don't hold your breath though...
Svartidauði - Flesh Cathedral
Dark Opus - Ignominious Fundamentals
Nocturnal Vomit - Cursed Relics
Weapon - Embers and Revelations
Atriarch - Ritual of Passing
Regulus - Ενθάδε Κείται
Godless - Via Crucis
Arktau Eos - Ioh-Maera