Tagged: Black Metal

Autumne Nocturne: a highly emotional and anguished work with a life of its own

Norskian Anathium, Autumne Nocturne, Russia, Rigorism Production, CD-R RPD165 (2014)

From Ekaterinburg in Siberia come Norskian Anathium with their debut album and first release that isn’t self-titled. The duo delivers a very mournful and despairing quartet of songs on death and melancholy. The band composes in Russian but the vocals are very distorted and have a distant phantom-like sound so listeners outside Russia can treat these as an extra layer of ambient sonic texture.

After a plaintive piano-dominated introduction, these guys throw you into the business end of their depressive BM with powerful and surging BM grind-guitar, flippy percussion and some of the most ghostly vocals to be found east of the Ural mountains in “September – Into the Ice Fog”. (Well, not that I know very much of Siberia beyond the Urals.) For such pained and painful music, filled with angst and inner torment, there’s plenty of hate, fire and energy pushing the song along. A strong bass groove in parts, distinct riffs and heart-breaking screams from afar keep the interest level high through the song’s long duration. While the guitar tones are chainsaw-rough, the production is clean and sharp enough that the bass melodies can be heard beneath the layered music and the vocals have a very cold edge. Enough repetition of particular riffs throughout the song maintains its focus and keeps it distinct from other tracks on the album.

“October – Thunderstorm”, played in a different key, has a more familiar sound for those of us who remember Burzum’s classic “Filosofem” album. The mood is dark with rock-solid bass chord drones and busy tremolo guitars sounding warning siren riffs. The voices wail more, verging on the deranged, though there is hate behind them. The highlight of this song is the hyperactive percussion meltdown in the song’s second half along with the sonorous bass slash riffs. Outro track “November – Sinister Moon” doesn’t differ greatly from the preceding tracks but ramps up the emotional intensity in the vocals and in the repetitive riffing and relentless drive of the music.

While Norskian Anathium could probably strive for a more distinctive sound, they deliver a highly emotional recording of sheer unrelenting pain and anguish, energy and the feeling of rushing towards the abyss. The music really seems to have a life of its own; the two musicians become mere conduits bringing forth a message from the spirit world about the meaninglessness and despair of life, and how death may not necessarily be a comfort from suffering. The vocals are certainly very dramatic and there’s a fine balance between drama and theatrical histrionics being trod here.

Where the album falters is in the last few moments of the final track where it appears there’s no climax followed by an easing of tension but the recording simply going on and on in its fade-out. That probably makes sense in the context of the album and the duo’s aims but for listeners it’s a very uneasy finish. There’s something about that conclusion that suggests “cliffhanger” and that there’s more to come from these guys … I certainly hope so if they can maintain the standard they’ve set here.

Acta non Verba: no frills / no nonsense 1990s-influenced black metal in search of a distinct sound

Deitus, Acta non Verba, United Kingdom, Ulthar Records, limited edition cassette CATS009 (2016)

“Deeds, not words” is the title of British BM band Deitus’ debut album, though without very much information about these guys at my finger-tips I can’t say how much they live up to that motto. Here be straightforward no-frills / no-nonsense 1990s-styled raw BM that stresses hard-edged martial riffing, outbreaks of blast-beat drumming and plenty of melodies in songs boasting occult and Satanic themes. All songs show thought and care in their construction and each track stands as a flowing self-contained unit in its own right with drama, aggression and energy. The weakest element here is the spidery BM vocals which are all but swamped by the energetic music, which is a bit unfortunate as most songs feature singing and the music accommodates it, never fighting it. While the guitars have a distorted sound, the band’s overall style is actually clean and polished enough for all instruments to be heard clearly and the general sound is more steely and spacious than grinding.

All songs are played well and consistently though if they had fewer and more distinctive riffs and melodies they might all emerge as potential singles. Trying to pack in as many riffs as possible into each and every song has the unfortunate effect of robbing them all of their own identities. As they are, the longer tracks “Ladder of Divine Ascent” and “Todestrieb” coming at the end of the album stick out more, probably because they also feature some lead guitar playing, pay more attention to creating mood and ambience than the other earlier pieces or experiment a bit with the band’s style and sound.

While the album is technically good and these Deitus guys have considerable ability and song-writing skills, they need to develop a more distinctive style and sound. At present they sound very much like 1,001 other generic raw black metal bands drawing on 1990s black metal influences and inspirations. The vocals very definitely need to improve beyond raspy spider chant and incorporating a second vocalist (with perhaps some death metal influence) probably wouldn’t go astray. There are indications on the later tracks, especially “Todestrieb”, that suggest that what I’m hearing here is just a small part of what Deitus are capable of and they could certainly include more ambience and non-BM elements than they do here.

C’mon guys, we’re looking forward to your second album where deeds not words are what we want you to live up to!

The Synarchy of Molten Bones: another intense chapter in legendary French black metal band’s journey

Deathspell Omega, The Synarchy of Molten Bones, France, Norma Evangelium Diaboli, CD digipak NED041 (2016)

After a 6-year break during which DSO fans had to be content with compilations, boxed sets and short EPs, the mighty French legends finally release a new album which turns out to be not that much longer than the short EP releases. Those of us hoping for something innovative from the band that was evident on the last original work “Drought” will be a bit disappointed too – the atmosphere and dark moods and spaces on that EP have gone and in their place is what we know to be DSO’s usual style of highly technical and sharp twisting-and-turning dense black / death metal. As is the custom of DSO, there are usually just two modes of musical delivery: the fast and furious careening along at breakneck speed that continually throws listeners off balance; and the short micro-breaks between one such episode and the next such episode.

“The Synarchy of Molten Bones” might be DSO in default cruise mode, and I’m a bit disappointed that the music here is no advance on their last release, but most DSO fans who’ve been starved for new music will be happy just to know their heroes can still deliver powerful and intense venomous black metal. The music is still dense and spiky in that dark sparkling jewelled dissonant-tone way, and there’s still that deranged edge to the playing and the ravaged multi-demon voices that dominate all four songs. The lyrics proclaim a new humanity arising from the remains of the old, but this time in the image of Satan, with all that is implied in that idea. Satan is still at heart a trickster and dissembler and a humanity in his image might partake of his deceptive nature and be no better than the humans that have gone before. Like other DSO releases, this one is so intense, overwhelming in its densely layered music and esoteric lyrics, that most fans will need several hearings to absorb it all. Though the distorted sound is still familiar, the production is still clean enough that a cold airy background ambience, through which choirs can be heard sighing, makes its presence felt through the flippy blast-beat percussion, the noodling guitars and the demon voices as they fade in and out and blend with one another.

There isn’t much to distinguish the four tracks from one another except perhaps that each succeeding track is more insane and frantic than the one before. DSO really play like men possessed and if all DSO albums were to be judged purely on their levels of madness and demented intensity, “The Synarchy …” would rate very high. The drumming especially has a deranged life of its own and I think it’s a pity the actual beats have such a thin brittle quality and don’t have the power they could have. Indeed the thin production here doesn’t do DSO much justice – the music needs to be deeper to bring out the band’s fanatical side.

Even so, there’s plenty of substance in the lyrics that will intrigue listeners and which might ensure that the album, for all its immediate musical faults, will grow on listeners and be considered essential listening, warts and all.

Tyhjyys: a technically consistent work lacking a distinctive identity

Kalmankantaja, Tyhjyys, Wolfspell Records, CD Spell 028 (2016)

Since forming in 2011, Kalmankantaja have notched up an impressive discography (nine albums, two compilations, several EPs and splits) in the short time they’ve been together. I sometimes wonder whether they’d be better off recording fewer albums and splits each year and spending more time experimenting with and deviating from their style on the recordings they do make. “Tyhjyys”, the trio’s second full-length album for 2016, is a solid depressive BM work from start to finish but promises no new surprises for their fans. The musicians are progressing steadily from their original depressive BM approach to a more melodic and atmospheric style that straddles the underground and the alternative mainstream. The music is reminiscent of Burzum around his “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” / “Filosofem” period but with a more powerful and spacey sound and less pop-oriented tunes.

All five songs are long with the shortest at least 8 minutes in length. “Iankaikkinen” sets the template for the rest of the album to follow: layered riffs with just enough distortion to project a hard, grinding texture (but not so much so that you can’t make them out), a pained synth tone-poem wash-over that sets the mood and gruff Finnish-language vocals that usually dominate the song. The drumming provides enough bang to anchor the music and occasionally stands out in parts but usually sticks to its time-keeping role. The riffs can be dramatic and sweeping, and lend an epic aspect to some tracks (as on the follow-up song “Mustat vedet”) though they’re not exactly whistle-worthy pop tunes. There’s a fair amount of repetition on most tracks which accounts for their length and probably if they’d been cut back by a minute or two each, not much would be lost in the way of the song’s integrity as instrumental passages within songs tend to go over and over the same riff.

While all the BM-oriented songs are consistent and powerful on their own, together they’re not that distinct from one another and they could interchange riffs and melodies without affecting the general downbeat mood and style much. The emotional level tends to be the same from one song to the next and the singing especially is more low-key than the songs perhaps deserve. The odd scream or demonic multi-voiced gabble-fest wouldn’t have hurt. Where songs build up to a climax, the cold mists of synthesiser tone wash tend to dampen down the intensity when maybe the guitars should just let rip once in a while with a volcanic boil-over. An opportunity to go into hypnotic psychedelic territory on “Yönpalvoja” offers itself but the band doesn’t take it up. Instead there’s too much repetition on this track and while it does have a lot of power, the song’s potential to be a stirring climax to everything that’s come before is wasted. Final track “Kaamos” is an all-ambient instrumental that does very little for its length.

Long-time Kalmankantaja fans will probably be happy that once again the band has been consistent and is continuing to produce technically good work but first-time listeners are probably better off hearing the trio’s shorter EP works or some of the split recordings the Finns have done with other bands.

Injection: incredibly sad and depressive but not for reasons intended

5ml, Injection, Hong Kong, Nostalgia Productions, CD NP003 (2014)

Listening to this album, I only needed five minutes to discover just how incredibly saddening and dejected depressive BM can be in the hands of this duo who hail from from Krasnodar, one of the, er, sunnier cities in Russia. This is a very sad album indeed, though for reasons the guys might not have had in mind.

First track “Swallow” runs the emotional gamut from deep, deep sorrow to sheer panic and anguish, to the point where you feel more embarrassed for the histrionics and the background whimpering while the thin whiny guitars roar away and the drums flail continuously. It’s actually not a bad track, there’s plenty of good riffing but the overall sound is more wheezy than energetic and emphatic, and probably throws more weight onto the vocals and the hysteria than those deserve. “When Tears Become Bright Again” is not the happiest or brightest of songs either but for sheer pain and burning heat from those crumbly guitar tones this track can’t be beaten. There’s actually quite a good little bass melody going on in the far background if you can ignore the bleating and the screaming.

As the album progresses, I find paying attention to the instrumental music more rewarding than the complaining – if there was some way of erasing the vocals completely and just listening to the music, I’d do it. The contrasts between 5ml’s cleaner post-rock music and the battery-acid BM are very sharp and do much more to disorient and upset listeners than any amount of over-acting and the use of spoken-voice recordings do. 5ml can do moody blues music really well and should just let that continue for as long as they can stand because often that brooding, darkening moodiness is all that’s just needed to impress on listeners a state of unease and fear. The music also improves in the album’s second half with more emphasis on slower mood music and slightly less vocal theatrics.

The music ranges from fairly typical depressive BM with not very much atmosphere (except in the last track where there’s a bit of cold spacey-ness) to brooding urban mood post-rock, with better, more atmospheric music in the later tracks than earlier ones. Final track “Bath of Razors” attempts to integrate the depressive BM and post-rock tendencies more than on previous songs with some success in parts, with the addition of piano and synth-generated droning. Unfortunately those screechy voices are back as well and the music recedes to ongoing scratchiness and cold repetitive noodling.

After hearing this a few times, I find this album more so-so than it could have been: there’s some good emotional music here and if the duo had eliminated those annoying voices and concentrated on bulking up the music with better production, the album’s potential for deep soulful music could have been better realised. “Injection” does promise quite a lot in its first few moments and the album overall does deliver – but you sense it could have done so much more. Let’s hope a follow-up album can deliver a full booster to reinforce and strengthen the positive effects of “Injection” without the adverse reactions.

Luonnon harmonia ja vihreä liekki: a good but not great fusion of old school black metal and space psychedelia

abyssion-luonnon-harmonia-ja-vihrea-liekki-lp

Abyssion, Luonnon harmonia ja vihreä liekki, Finland, Svart Records, SVR343 CD digipak / vinyl (2015)

Apparently the album’s title translates into English as “The Harmony of Nature and the Green Flame” and the music bears a very superficial resemblance to Filosofem-period Burzum but there’s little about the album that’s either calming or pop-friendly for listeners. There’s a strong industrial / punk / garage feel to the music which through continuous tremolo micro-repetition and harsh abrasive guitar textures achieves an effect of ever-flowing levitating music which can have an unsettling impact on listeners. This feeling of being adrift is magnified by the use of synthesiser-generated cold space ambience and a severely raspy machine vocal reminiscent of Daleks gone psycho (for those of you who watch Doctor Who). It soon becomes obvious that, in the hands of Abyssion members Jose Rossi and Antti Varis, raw punky 1990s-period black metal becomes the launch-pad for sonic experimentation that takes the band and its followers into dark and deranged realms far beyond BM while still retaining a connection, however stretched out it becomes, to that genre.

Intro track “Luonnon Harmonia” sets the pace with a rock-n-roll rhythm, swirling psychedelic effects and a screeching vocal in what’s otherwise a no-nonsense throwback to old school BM. The drumming is close to overwhelming thunder on the second track but apart from that and the screaming, the music doesn’t raise its head much above a sedate pace until its last couple of moments. It’s not until we come to “Vihreä Liekki” that Abyssion comes close to the promise of the album’s opening track: demented demonic singing, a mix of fast and slow rhythms, psychedelic space-ambient effects that reach sky-high and dip down far below, a scrabbly lead guitar solo near the end, all of which are buoyed by solid tremolo guitar textures, combine to make the song a major highlight of the album.

Just when you think the band couldn’t be any more inspired after “Vihreä Liekki”, out comes “Ajatus kirkastuu” which experiments with droning guitar feedback and more atmospheric droning space psychedelia to create a cold, remote and sometimes nauseous mood, and which features even more insane shrieking vocals and thundering percussion. No matter how extreme this song (and some of the other songs on the album) becomes, the rhythm guitars still anchor everything in place with solid riff abrasion. The last track continues on, this time with some shrieky lead guitar soloing and furious stickwork, but it quickly runs out of puff and settles into a melodic BM groove.

For the first few times the album is a good listening experience with mostly short screechy songs and an inspired combination of raw punk, solid old school BM and cold space ambient psychedelic effects to spice up the music. After several repeated hearings though, you start to realise that the band is short on very catchy and memorable melodies and extended riffs, and that for all the vocal gymnastics the actual music doesn’t break into too much of a sweat. Perhaps sticking a bit too close to its black metal roots and not severing the connection with them and going into all-out blackened space derangement is Abyssion’s weak point here. Here’s a case where a band would seem to have everything going for it – but on closer inspection doesn’t have those inspired tunes that would take it far beyond the ends of the cosmos.

Farewell to the Sun: a disappointing debut for a promising doom / post-BM band

vow-of-thorns

Vow of Thorns, Farewell to the Sun, Canada, Forest Dweller Inc., CD digipak (2016)

Although the foursome from southern Ontario have been playing together for some 8 years, Vow of Thorns haven’t had an impressive discography so far and only this year (2016) did they release their first album “Farewell to the Sun”. From the sound of it – and I’ve played it a few times already – I’m wondering if maybe even releasing it this year was a bit premature for VoT. There’s some very good atmospheric post-BM music here but taken as a whole the album lacks direction and focus, and much of it seems circular, repetitive and lacking in energy. I’m sure the members worked hard and long on this recording so I’m disappointed for them that it hasn’t turned out the way it could have done.

For a start there are three tracks that form a “Farewell to the Sun” trilogy within the album of the same name so listeners might query whether these songs, totalling 23 minutes altogether, couldn’t have been hived off as a separate album or EP release from the other tracks. For all that, there’s no great difference between those songs and the rest of the album, and the entire recording could have been an overarching work of six connected chapters. At least three tracks on the album, none of them related to one another, are 10+ minutes in length and listeners are hard-pressed to figure out why any one of these should be as long as it is, given that the music often wanders from one set of riffs or melodies to the next without anything being resolved within the song.

Opening track “Meeting on the Astral Plane” seems promising enough as it features some blistering BM energy mixed with passages of emotive doom filtered through a BM sheen along with some solid heavy metal melodic crunch and moments of quiet acoustic meditation within its 10-minute limit. The level of playing is solid throughout and the musicians pour their hearts and souls into the music. Can it be possible that they’re a bit too swept away by the music to the point of overplaying and the song ends up overstaying its welcome? There are moments where it seems there are other songs within “Meeting …” struggling to emerge and the musicians’ attention is diverted to indulging these within the original song and losing sight of what they should be doing. This is a problem that recurs on other tracks later, especially on the album’s other long songs.

You’d expect the “Farewell to the Sun” tracks to form a self-contained set in which a definite musical narrative can be heard. Part I at least starts off as a long instrumental intro. Part II takes up the baton and some of the musical themes but then starts falling apart during its fifth to sixth minutes with pauses that deflate the music’s momentum. From then on there’s a long, long haul back up to where we started. Perhaps the agony and anguish are intended but, jeez, the journey is excruciating. Part III similarly is an endurance test through doomy post-BM. At the end of this set, I don’t get the feeling that whatever crises were brought up during its 20-plus minutes have been resolved and what we’ve had to undergo is an extended wallow in depression and misery.

Much of the music actually isn’t bad, the album could have junked out a lot of the more repetitive sections and been a much tighter and more focused work. The production, while good, doesn’t serve the music too well, not allowing the more contemplative and atmospheric parts to be what they should be (that is, contemplative and atmospheric) or giving the heavier, more crunching riffs the three-dimensional solidity they need. The main problem is that too many songs try to pack too much in, trying to be all things to all people, and they end up sounding very similar.

For all that, VoT have some good melodies and riffs, and the guys play very well together; they just need better song composition skills and to reconsider how they want to sound and what they want to get out of it to provide a better experience for their fans.

Autumn: a richly layered and solid sound world on an epic scale

coldworld-autumn1

Coldworld, Autumn, Germany, Cold Dimensions, CD DIMEN029 (2016)

Eight years have come and gone since one-man band ColdWorld recorded and released its first album “Melancholie²” and it’s only now in 2016 that ColdWorld maestro Georg Börner (hereafter GB) has overcome the dreaded second album syndrome and brought forth follow-up album “Autumn”. One could be forgiven for expecting little to have happened in the intervening period – eight years are plenty of time to have gone away and done something completely different, so much so that, simply in order to pick up where “Melancholie²” left off, a recapitulation of that album might be necessary – but “Autumn” is a different beast altogether. There is a warmer, more uplifting mood and the scale that the album operates on seems much larger, more epic and soaring.

As on the first album, GB strives for perfection in everything, right down to the smallest detail, and this along with his nose for a memorable pop-sounding tune when he smells one means that the music still suffers a bit from being too polished and needing more spontaneity and roughness around the edges. Listeners can still find a fair amount to like though, if not really relish. Apart from the craftsmanship and the attention to technical detail, there’s the layering of textures to create a rich sonic world of orchestral tremolo guitars that itself generates particular moods that listeners can readily identify with and into which they can allow themselves to be subsumed. And when GB does straight-out black metal, boy, is it ever sharp and vicious, like a prowling shark with a mouth full of needle-like choppers hunting down panicked seals. Even if the screaming isn’t quite as all-out berserk as I’d like it to be, it’s still very screechy.

However, even with a set of great sounds and an ear for what works as music, musicians still need ideas and original creative flair, and I’m not  sure that GB has enough originality to match his other considerable gifts. Opening track “Scars” is a good piece with plenty of raw BM / post-BM variety: a mix of raw BM and clean vocals, rapid-fire blast-beat drumming and juddering tremolo guitar fury against a wall of orchestral sound. The track following is more relaxed but seems less inspired and a fair bit of padding is starting to creep in. “Womb of Emptiness” floats in post-BM / blackgaze territory with a warm attractive sound before turning into a dark chilly song.

After a short interlude dominated by a mournful violin solo, “Climax of Sorrow” brings the listener back to cold sinister atmospheric BM with bite and a heavy grinding rhythm. This is an impressive, no-nonsense track big on deranged squealing anger that subsides into dreamy dark shoegaze reverie. Of all the tracks on this album, “Climax …” is a standout. “Nightfall” is good too although it is more repetitive.

I’d have preferred something more individual and adventurous even if hit-or-miss but listeners happy knowing what to expect and who want to revel in a richly layered world of epic music and moods will enjoy ColdWorld’s “Autumn”. This is a very solidly constructed album with every considered sound crafted well and put in its place.

Believe in No Coming Shore: not quite the breakthrough album for US folk / black metallers Falls of Rauros

Falls of Rauros, Believe in No Coming Shore, United States / Sweden, Bindrune Recordings / Nordvis Produktion, digipak CD BR022 / NVP023 (2014)

Falls of Rauros are a Maine-based band who originally began as a duo and over the years expanded into a quartet. On this, the band’s third album, FoR have a clean sound and a melodic and mournful style that effectively pushe their music into post-BM mood territory. The combination of sharp-edged harsh BM with its wailing vocal and a clean blues-oriented sound suits the album’s subject matter in which humanity stands accused of failing to take responsibility for its crimes and sins inflicted upon a fragile planet and towards its own kind, and thus now faces extinction, spiritually as well as physically. The album holds some hope that we won’t follow blindly in our forerunners’ steps and will instead use our gifts and strengths to repair this planet and create a better future. The bulk of the album is taken up by four fairly lengthy tracks book-ended by short instrumental pieces.

“Believe in No Coming Shore” could have been a very epic work with a varied range of moods and atmospheres, and with soaring lead guitar solo pieces where appropriate and hard gritty rhythms and riffing. The musicians play as a fairly tight (but not too tight) unit. Parts dominated by acoustic guitar or urban blues playing have distinct mood and inner-oriented ambience and the switch between these and the more BM passages is smooth and not at all jarring. The major problem with the album with respect to the mechanics of the music is the style of the vocals; they are very ragged, limited in their range and expression, and set far back in the mix. As a result the music has to carry the expectations of listeners and there are occasions (especially in the middle of the album) where it seems to meander with no clear direction or emphasis.

The songs are good but not remarkable and I think longer tracks like “Ancestors of Smoke” and “Waxen Voices” could have been edited for length with some of the slower instrumental music taken out. “Waxen Voices” doesn’t quite hang together and parts of the song seem a bit disjointed. Overall the general tone of the album is even with a gradual build-up in intensity from the first major track “Ancestors of Shadow” through to “Spectral Eyes” – although the tension at this point isn’t well resolved due in part to the shouty vocals and the music’s failure to strive beyond the stars and perhaps fall over through over-reach.

At this point in their career, Falls of Rauros needed a breakthrough album that alerts mainstream and underground labels and audiences alike that here is a band with a distinct style and purpose. “Believe in No Coming Shore”, which sticks to a minimal instrumental set-up and a style of fusion music that has been done to death by others, unfortunately sets back that moment of transition.

Christ Clad in White Phosphorus: not just another tour-de-force album by Caïna

Caïna, Christ Clad in White Phosphorus, Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings, digipak CD APW011 (2016)

Since reforming in 2012, Caïna continues to do no wrong from this listener’s viewpoint as it evolves from Andrew Curtis-Bicknell’s solo project  to a three-member band and the music shifting from black metal / post-BM to a black metal mixed with industrial, dark ambient, noise electronics and 80s-styled darkwave / synth-pop influences. In my little world at least, every new album release from Caïna is an event not to be missed.  Listening to Caïna’s recordings isn’t easy and most of them can be very hard-going, and not just because they can be long or because they can be so unpredictable. There is much emotional pain revealed that can resonate with dark moments in most people’s lives and a listener would have to be either dead, comatose or sociopathic not to be affected by moments in Caïna’s albums to the point of tears.

From the hellish industrial nightmare ambience created by opener “Oildrenched and Geartorn” through intense raw garage black metal filled with rage and a desire to destroy everything within hearing range in tracks like “Fumes of God” and “Entartete Kunst”; doomier and darker melodic pop-song tracks like “Gazing on the Quantum Megalith” and “God’s Tongue as an Ashtray”; the noise / dark ambient soundscapes of “The Throat of the World” … the sonic universe that arises is incredibly vast and varied yet it all crackles with energy and a malevolent spirit. If anything, there might be too much going on here (for a 53-minute album) with Caïna jumping from one style of music to another through songs that are often just 4 – 6 minutes which may not be enough time for many listeners to fully savour the sounds, the emotions, the fury and intensity of one song before they are hurled into another.

Just when you think Caïna has gone past the halfway mark and can do no more, the band goes to another level with pieces like the fusion dark ambient / jazz of “Pillars of Salt” and the harsh blizzard 90s-Norwegian styled black metal of “The Promise of Youth”. These send us to the unreal blinding-white dazzle ambient world of static and white sizzle noise that is “Extraordinary Grace”. Have we all died and gone to Heaven to meet our maker and hear the judgement to be pronounced upon us? In an album already jam-packed with experimentation and investigations into angst and melancholy, this near-psychedelic track, lasting for 12 minutes, is an astounding discovery, the proverbial diamond in a heap of black coal. This quartet of songs ends with the title track which with clean vocals, shrill guitar melodies and pulsing synth accompaniment, sounds like a noisy black metal reworking of a 1980s Goth synth-pop song.

For a band that at one point in its past almost did away with black metal completely, Caïna commit themselves to the black art with the force and aggression that comes from being fully invigorated with the music again. Perhaps bringing on board guest vocalists on previous album “Settler of Unseen Snares” and a permanent vocalist and another musician has inspired AC-B anew. Caïna’s sound is fuller, more blood-red raw and intense than I remember from earlier recordings.

Coupled with excellent production, this album presents a reborn Caïna that is at once experimental and at the same time surprisingly accessible with songs possessed of catchy tunes and beats, all arranged in a way that shorter, more conventionally oriented BM tracks (well, relatively speaking of course – we’re talking about an act whose work has always spanned several genres) come first before the more surreal pieces. It can be a lot to take in and several songs are very uncompromising in their aggression and intense delivery. This is an album that repays repeated hearings: with each spin, you may find your darkest fears and vulnerabilities exposed anew.

At this point, if Caïna never do anything else again, the band will be leaving behind a legacy of great if not always perfect albums. I rate Caïna among Britain’s greatest rock music exports, and that is really saying something even now with so much British pop and rock music in apparent decline.