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Friday 6 November 2020

Reviews: Belphegor, Garmarna, Deluge, Them (Paul S, Alex, Rich & Lucas)

Belphegor: Necrodaemon Terrorsathan (Nuclear Blast) [Paul Scoble]

Belphegor have been making nasty, blasphemous noises since 1991, which was before they were Belphegor, as for the first 2 years of their career Belphegor were called Betrayer. The band have released 11 albums in their career, first was 1995’s The Last Supper and the eleventh was 2017’s Totenritual. Firstly I should point out that this is not the new Belphegor album, Necrodaemon Terrorsathan is a re-release of Belphegor’s 3rd album, to mark the albums twentieth anniversary. The opening, title track has been re-recorded and sits quite comfortably with the rest of the album that was recorded 20 years ago, which if nothing else proves that the original album was very well produced. Belphegor tend to be described as Blackened Death Metal, which is fine, that's what I think of them, but they tend to do ‘Blackened Death Metal’ in a fairly unique way. Most Blackened Death Metal is Death Metal with the odd influence from Black Metal; but Belphegor do it by seamlessly mixing Death Metal with Black metal.

So, tight, dense Death Metal riffs are placed right next to layered tremolo picked Black Metal riffs, and they fit together perfectly. Nothing feels out of place or incongruous, it all flows together in a beautifully natural way. The second track on the album Vomit Upon The Cross is a great example of this, the song opens with expansive Black Metal riffs layered together, and feels huge, then the song takes a turn towards brutal and dense Death Metal before going back to Black Metal style of kicking your head in. Whichever style they play Belphegor are always going to be brutal and extreme. Obviously sometimes the balance is more towards the Death Metal (Lust Perishes In A Thirst For Blood) or Black Metal (Cremation Of Holiness), but whatever the mix of styles this album is always savagely nasty with blasting drums, great riffs, wonderfully viscous vocals and and tempos that could knock down a building. 

There's also a surprising amount of melody and tunefulness on some tracks, and some fabulously manic solos. I realise that a lot of Belphegor fans will already have this album, I’m not sure if there is much reason for them to re-buy it as the parts that have not been re-recorded sound fine, and defiantly compare well with the opening re-recorded track. To be honest, that's up to individual fans; I realise that some will be buying this due to a need to have everything the band have produced. However, if you are new to Belphegor, then this would be a fantastic place to start. If you have never heard the band before, and are into extreme metal I urge you to check this out. 8/10

Garmarna: Förbundet (Season Of Mist) [Alex Swift]

Folk influences are nothing new in music. They weave their way through the music of legendary acts in the vain of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, and while folk rock itself has always occupied more of a niche – probably starting with the eccentric oddities of acts like Jethro Tull, the trend has increased in popularity over the years to the extent that folk intersects with many genres across the musical spectrum. If we ignore some of the lesser experiments *ahem* Mumford and Sons *ahem*, there is so much to wonder at in the amalgamation. Looking on a purely storytelling level, the styles are not entirely distinct – both genres are entranced with tales of the mystical and otherworldly. When folk traditions are used as a musical foundation, the sonic opportunities are endless. On Förbundet, Garmarna embrace their Swedish heritage and many of the pieces here are reinterpreted fragments of music from their history. In that sense, the record bears a resemblance to the Myrkur album which came out earlier this year. On Folkesange, Amalie Brunn and co. reinvented traditional Scandinavian music in a way which complemented yet diverged from their black metal inclinations. By continuing on this route, Garmarna are honouring a proud and aspiring custom.

The musical contrast captured here is, for lack of a better word, exquisite! There are pieces where the compositions climb to impassioned heights including the beautifully saddening Två Systrar where resonant vocals climb in ambitious style, while the brooding rhythms add to that sensation of wraithlike mystery. Strings, and woodwind instrumentals, coil and ensnare, lending excellently to the eerie ambience, also aided by the sting and bite of the expressive guitars. Dagens Flyr is a jaunty and lively track which conjures images of ancient festivities observed for the coming of spring. This is followed by the seemingly introspective Ur Världen Att Gå, providing a solemn yet carefully executed contrast. Interestingly, anthems such as the frenzied Ramunder and the sorrowful closer Din Gray seem to flow and undulate, rather than follow set pathways. 

From a purely personal perspective, this is not my favourite musical style, yet is one I am growing to love, as I become accustomed to experimental ways of portraying the capriciousness of emotion itself. Sven i Rosengård and Lussi Lilla prove masterfully melancholy moments. Under the guise of being archaic dance routines, they utilise hypnotic pacing and corralling melodic refrains, while the strict, harsh rhythms retain that sense of movement and continuity, as if being caught in an obsessive yet enthralling ritual. Being rooted in songs sung long ago by unnamed singers, these are tales of death, memory, and despair. Though, it is reassuring to know that these stories had morals, and meaning to them. Behind these pieces of music is a mythology that humanity can reconnect with the natural world, and that the respect and nurture that comes with that may somehow make us better than ourselves. I know for certain – that’s the effect music has on me, especially when the writing is so enchanting. 7/10

Deluge: Ægo Templo (Metal Blade Records) [Rich Oliver]

Ægo Templo is the second album by French post-black metal band Deluge and the first release through Metal Blade Records. Deluge mix the blackgaze stylings of bands such as Deafheaven with the more metal leaning post-hardcore stylings of bands such as Svalbard. I’m no fan of the post-hardore genre but the influences work well here with the emotional drive of said genre mixing well with the black metal and shoegaze leanings.

The music varies from dreamy shoegaze influenced passages to darkier doomier segments to blastbeat riddled chaos with songs such as the furious title track, opener Soufre and the brilliant Abysses managing to combine all these elements together in cohesive form. Where this album does struggle a bit are in the flow and pacing. A lot of the songs seem to start and stop and there are instrumental passages that seem to go nowhere and achieve nothing. This results in the album seeming to drag on longer than it should. A lot of these songs could have been shortened and tightened which would have resulted in a more cohesive listen. Aside from my gripes with the pacing and songwriting the performances are utterly fantastic. There is some fantastic guitar work from Richard de Mello and François-Thibaut Hordé whilst Benjamin Marchal absolutely destroys on the drums. The vocals from Maxime Febvet are a mix of harsh and clean vocals with the harsh leaning more on the hardcore side whilst the cleans are fairly restrained and suited to the mood of the music.

Deluge have a mixed bag of an album with Ægo Templo. The pacing issues are the main culprit here but when this album does hit in the right place it does so with tremendous style as showcased by the fantastic title track. Whilst it does have its failings there is still much to enjoy on this album but it is not an essential listen. 6/10

Them: Return To Hemmersmoor (Steamhammer) [Lucas Tuckwood]

Return to Hemmersmoor is the latest chapter in the fantastical stories of heavy metal outfit Them. Providing campy horror stories and heavy riffs in equal measure, it’s a solid album that unfortunately loses itself in its gimmick a little too much for my liking. It’s easy to see that Them wear their King Diamond influences proudly on their sleeves, incorporating spooky horror and narrative elements into the music, interspersed with heavy riffing, and a singer bedecked in ghostly getup reaching some ear-splitting octaves. It’s notably heavier than the king however, often dipping into thrash levels of speed and aggression, with the assistance of Demolition Hammer skin-basher Angel Cotte, who smashes the kit with unyielding ferocity. 

Unfortunately it’s not enough to save the rest of the album, which offers some decent riffs, but overstays its welcome just a tad. Tray Norr’s shrieking vocals, while undoubtedly impressive, also ascend a little too high to properly mesh with the rapid drums and heavy riffs, and as a result they very rarely compliment the songs they feature in. What this album nails however is its atmosphere, and while the music isn’t all perfect, it succeeds in creating a perfect mood to fit its narrative in all its old fashioned horror movie trappings, and I imagine it would make for an incredible live performance. In all, this is a band for a very specific taste. If you love this little sub genre often categorised as “horror metal”, you’re bound to enjoy this. Those following the story will be satisfied in its conclusion, as well as the grand theatrics of the music put on display, but I’m hesitant to recommend it to anyone outside of this small niche. 6/10

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