REVIEW: SARGEIST – “DEATH VENERATION”

By Nathanas Trismegistus

Released December 24, 2019 by World Terror Committee on CD and on Bandcamp.

Fresh off the presses, we have, unexpectedly, a brand new EP from legendary Finnish black metal band, Sargeist. It’s a terse, almost 19-minute EP, fraught with the haunting melodies for which the band is known. Of course, being a W. T. C. release, I don’t expect to see it in US record stores for another year. So, naturally, I listened to it on Bandcamp. But you can also stream it on YouTube.

According to a recent Bardo Methodology (which is slowly becoming the premiere source for arcane black metal content) interview, tracks 1, 2, and 4 were all recorded concomitantly with – and probably should have been included in – 2018’s “Unbound” (a welcome return to form after 2014’s poorly-received “Feeding the Crawling Shadows”) whereas track 3 was, apparently, a re-recording of the first track Shautrag ever wrote for Sargeist. This does bring up a subject I wish to broach, namely, the practice of recording content for a project, only to cut said content for the sake of releasing it later on another album or EP. Förgjord did the very same thing this year with their album “Ilmestykset”. What exactly is the point? To double profits? It’s like video game developers charging extra money for content, that has already been completed, by selling it to customers as DLC. And that’s exactly what this is, in my opinion: Black Metal DLC. Sargeist could have easily squeezed these four tracks onto the “Unbound” CD (but probably not the vinyl unless they released it as a double LP). In the interview with Shautrag, he claims these songs were recorded for hitherto unreleased or canceled splits, but, I’m not sure if I believe that.

While I find the circumstances surrounding this release to be dubious, the material itself is exemplary. Somber melodies elegantly folding into one another. The EP begins with, what I think, is the best track, “To Make Wolves of Men”. Track 2, “To Feast on Astral Blood”, is easily the worst – and longest – song on this EP, which is not to say that it is necessarily bad; though, it does have a chord progression, in like the second or third movement, which I think is just awful. And the eponymous song is more of the same. All of them perfectly match the tone and style of “Unbound” (and, again, should have been included therein), except, of course, Track 3. “Lunar Curse” definitely stands out (for obvious reasons) as being the proverbial black sheep of the album. Even though, stylistically, it doesn’t fit, it is a nice little conferral to long-time, die-hard fans as it is very reminiscent of classic Sargeist.

While I consider myself more a proponent of splits – an underrated format which, I think, can yield some spectacular music given the brevity and ability to focus permitted thereby – I also greatly enjoy EPs. So how does “Death Veneration” fare against other Sargeist EPs? Well, it is the longest, but I prefer 2011’s “Lair of Necromancy” (which is stylistically similar to 2010’s magnum opus “Let the Devil In”). It is better than 2008’s “The Dark Embrace”, though.

Sargeist’s music is like a top-shelf whiskey burning your organs on a bitter, cold winter’s day. “Death Veneration” succeeds in continuing this tradition. Perfect for the season, really. Enjoyable enough. Recommended, but not essential, except for the most ardent of Sargeist acolytes.

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