As one of the biggest surprises of 2020, we have Israel’s Symphonic Black Metal outfit The Bishop of Hexen returning with their first full-length release in almost 14 years with “The Death Masquerade”. Featuring a highly bombastic sound, this album delivers nearly 50 minutes of highly engaging music similar to Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth. While some might cringe after reading those names, there is nothing to cringe about how this band captures the vibe of the early days of Symphonic BM (think Argentum, Limbonic Art) and unleashes a very powerful trip down memory lane alongside haunting melodies.
Setting the mood with the creepy orchestrations and voices of “Catacumba Essentia”, the band dives head first into an onslaught of lush atmospherics and dramatic vocal arrangements with “A Witch King Reborn”. We are huge fans of the theatrical/cinematic experience provided by the band, with tracks like “Of Shuttering Harps & Shadow Hounds” and “Death Masks”, delivering over the top atmospherics alongside crafty drumming and ravaging guitar melodies. This brings back that old-school naivety about the genre making the release special.
Symphonic Black Metal
Just when you think that 2020 can not get any better in terms of Black Metal releases, today we have Serment dropping their majestically bombastic “Chante, Ô Flamme de la Liberté”. For nearly 40 minutes the band creates an immersive and superbly dramatic atmosphere that is fiercely pierced by ravaging onslaughts of hellish Black Metal onslaughts. As a side project of Moribond of Forteresse fame, this release delivers intensity, rawness, and melancholy in droves, making it one of the most pummeling releases of the year.
Seconds after the lush opener “Ouverture”, “Sonne, le Glas Funèbre” will fill your speakers with frosty synth arrangements and blistering drumming. The underlying catchiness of this track is perfectly captured as both harsh and clean vocals adorn the dramatic atmospherics, making it one intense opening for this release. Continuing to set the mood, “Par-Delà Collines et Rivières” and “Flamme Hivernale” keep the frosty atmosphere intact with waves of over-the-top arrangements flanked by violent screams and an overall apocalyptic feeling.
As a highly mysterious duo from Sweden, Greve unleashes upon the masses their debut full-lenght release “Nordarikets strid”. Featuring an eerie retro Atmospheric/Symphonic Black Metal sound, this album transport the listeners across aural planes with its incisive furious onslaughts and dramatic atmospherics.
Setting the mood with a dreamy intro, “Vid Dödens Tröskel” fully unleashes Greve’s fury with pummeling drums and piercing shrieks. The band’s Black Metal core is on point, delivering waves of crushing riffs and crafty tempo changes to keep things interesting as one can hear on the album title track and the Dissection-esque “I Svarta Solens Magi”.
Symphonic Black Metal is one of those genres that if done incorrectly, can come off as gaudy and laughable. Luckily for us, Helleborus manages to deliver one of the most dense and engaging entries to the genre in quite a while. With “Saprophytic Divinations” this North American outfit unleashes an untamable beast in the shape of nine crushing tracks. Definitely targeted to Black Metal fans of bands like Nightbringer that have a small sweet spot for cavernous symphonic arrangements, this release will transport you to a hellish trip like no other.
Setting a haunting atmosphere with the dramatic opening to “Celestial Grave”, the band marches forward with punishing vocals and pummeling drumming. This level of intensity mixed in with melody is somewhat similar to Old Man’s Child last releases. As “Alraun Ghost” and “Devil’s Garden” unleash their poison, we are treated to intense guitar riffs, relentless vocals and a very dense atmosphere thanks to the dramatic symphonic arrangements. Perfectly balanced in the mix, all elements shine alike, creating a very intense and poignant aural abuse.
We are huge suckers for Symphonic/Melodic Black Metal and luckily for us The Kryptik delivers one hell of a release with “When The Shadows Rise”. Clocking nearly 40 minutes, this album features eerie atmospherics, killer vocals, and an overall very melodic and explosive nature. If you are a fan of older bands like Limbonic Art, Tartaros, etc. this release is right up your alley.
After a dreamy instrumental intro, the band pounces on the lister with the demonical “Damned”. This track has that old-school vibe of just synths and no over the top orchestrations BS. While we enjoy dramatic orchestrations, there is something chilling and eerie about regular synths creating an enveloping atmosphere. The melodic nature of songs like “Flames of Revenge” showcases the band’s guitar driven mentality that while nicely leveled during the mix, they allow the track to be punishing and yet atmospheric.
Unleashing one hell of a lush and bombastic Melodic Black Metal release, today we have Sweden’s Netherbird and their fifth full-length release “Into the Vast Uncharted”. With a very dynamic sound that incorporates influences from bands like Dissection, Siebenbürgen , (early) Illnath, and (early) Naglfar, this release will satisfy that urge for old-school Melodic Black Metal.
Wasting no time, “Saturnine Ancestry” opens with a high octane onslaught of killer riffs, intense drumming and lush guitar leads to fully set the mood for this brilliant release. After their amazing 2016 release, “The Grander Voyage”, the band continues to crush the competition with dramatic compositions like “Harvest the Stars” and the mellow “Mercury Skies”. Showcasing their unparalleled ability to slowly build up to head banging orgies, “Lunar Pendulum” is one of those tracks that you can listen to it 20 times and still find joy in its intricacies.
Bringing back memories of the simpler days of Melodic Black Metal, when bands like Limbonic Art, Emperor, ...and Oceans added keyboards and orchestrations to the genre, today we have Vargrav and its sophomore release “Reign in Supreme Darkness”. Delivering over 40 minutes of lush arrangements, solid BM core elements and crafty songwriting, this one man unit unleashes a timeless sounding release that should not be overlooked.
After the traditional intro, Vargrav goes full steam with the lush “The Glory of Eternal Night”, a brilliant old-school sounding track that reminds us of Emperor’s classic “I am the Black Wizards”. The pacing and intricate tempo changes make this song quite enjoyable and a very strong opener. As “Dark Space Dominion” and “In Streams from Great Mysteries” roll in, we find ourselves impulsively headbanging thanks to their ravaging and yet playful nature. Both tracks are filled with majestic atmospheric arrangements, perfectly offset by catchy riffs.
A blast from the past made it to our review queue today with Hecate Enthroned and their first album in six years “Embrace of the Godless Aeon”. We remember back in the late 90’s when bands were trying to sound like Cradle of Filth and while many tried, Hecate Enthroned was one of the few that got close. While the band got unfairly treated as a clone, we always enjoyed their spin on Symphonic/Gothic Black Metal back in those days. With a new vocalist and their signature style, the band makes a very strong comeback in 2019.
Blasting away after their atmospheric intro, “Revelations in Autumn Flame” takes us back in time with the over the top synths that nicely contrast the shrieks and blast beats. The mixture of growls and shrieks is definitely something that attracted us to the band back in the day and on tracks like “Temples that Breathe” brings back some nice memories. However, the best thing about the band is how they create sinister atmospheres thanks to the sultry voice of Sarah Jezebel Deva in “Goddess of Dark Misfits”, our favorite song in the release.
Bringing back that nostalgic feeling of Symphonic Black Metal from the early 2000’s, today we have Belgium’s Lemuria and their full-length release “The Hysterical Hunt”. With over one hour of music, the band takes the listener in a very lively music filled with Folk elements and brilliant melodic passages, reminding us of outfits like Limbonic Art, Stormlord, Bal-Sagoth and early Agathodaimon.
After setting a turbulent and dramatic mood with the instrumental intro, the band gets down to business with the playful “A Plague Upon the Land”. This track features dramatic orchestrations that do not feel overpowering to the other elements, allowing the vocals to direct the show while the guitars and drums add a layer of heaviness to the music. As album title track rolls in, the pace pics up a bit and keep things interesting with cool vocal arrangements and killer melodic headbanging passages.
Hailing from Japan today we have the mesmerizing debut EP of Anguis Dei, titled “Ad Portas Serpentium”. Delivering four majestic Symphonic/Melodic Black Metal hymns that remind us of the old days of Emperor, Old Man’s Child, Naglfar and Dimmu Borgir, this release is quite a musical experience for fans of the style.
Opening with the dramatic theatrics of “Maythorns Over Uroboros”, this track sets a high-octane pace for this release. The lush keyboards are perfectly contrasted with the hellish vocals and bestial drumming. We particularly love how the band handles tempo changes in order to inflict the most amounts of pain via killer guitar leads or atmospheric passages.