By Nathanas Trismegistus

Order of Orias – Ablaze; released April 30 by World Terror Committee, a label which has a seemingly endless roster of middling occult black metal bands on a regularly scheduled rotation for release. By the way, I’m aware that there is a whole sub-sub-sub-genre of bands which call themselves “occult black metal”, but their “occult”-ness refers more to their characteristic obscure, echoey, raw sound than their occult themes. Watain-inspired, dissonant-to-melodic alternating bands, like Order of Orias, employ more traditional occult, or “orthodox Satanist” (I’m aware that they’re not the same thing, but they are, nonetheless, related), themes and imagery, which is why I refer to them as such. Just wanted to clear that up.

This relatively unknown band from Australia has apparently been around for some time; since 2007, as Order of Orias, and since 2005 as Eidölon. Despite being around for a decade and a half, they have only released two albums, Ablaze included. Is it a matter of quality over quantity? Not exactly, but I’ll get into that momentarily. (I actually do own their other album, but I wouldn’t deign to guess when the last time I listened to it was.) A lot of worthwhile black metal bands have emerged from Down Under. Drowning the Light, Rattenkönig, Goatblood all come to mind. Of course, I like Portal, Impetuous Ritual, Grave Upheaval and all those, even though they’re not strictly “black metal”. The closest, obvious comparison to Order of Orias’ musical style would, of course, be Barshasketh. Though they are not Aussies (they’re Kiwis), their respective musical styles both follow that sort of Swedish melodic black metal pattern. Barshasketh have also been around about as long as Order of Orias, but they’ve managed to crank out four albums of commensurate quality (the latest of which I’ve already reviewed).

You really can’t knock Order of Orias’ performances, let alone the production quality of this album and its pacing. It’s all really good. The nearly 40-minute runtime blazes past you. Everything sounds crisp and clear. This band’s priority is obviously more oriented towards capturing their musical work rather than emulating any mythical “trve kvlt” sound. But it’s also obvious that Order of Orias are trying to emulate something and it’s obvious what it is. And they do it very well, so, if their goal is to carry the aforementioned torch of such sinister melodic Swedish acts as Watain, Ondskapt, and Malign – all of whom, I would add, are still active even if they don’t continue to make music – then they certainly achieve that goal. The weaknesses of this album, though, really are the lack of originality or ingenuity. Also, with regards to the pacing, it’s less a matter of “wow, that album was so engaging, I can’t believe it was 40 minutes long!” and more a matter of “where was I the last 40 minutes?”, which is never a good thing, in my opinion. The composition is all fine, but nothing was really all that memorable. Seriously, not a single note of this album has managed to linger in my mind. It’s a lot of droning dissonance with the intermittent fast-paced trem-picked melody. Really nothing of any special significance or noteworthiness to be found here.

The best word I could use to describe Ablaze would be “nondescript”, and I really hate those sorts of albums because they are the hardest to review. You’ve probably heard a similar sentiment expressed regarding other kinds of media, but it’s certainly true for black metal as well. I can’t bring myself to care about spending the time to write a review for something so unrepentantly banal. Obviously I wouldn’t recommend it unless you just want a wall of sound to accompany your child sacrifice, or whatever it is you do in your spare time. Obviously, not essential.

Regardless, decide for yourself. Listen/buy here:

By Nathanas Trismegistus

Serpent Noir – Death Clan OD; released February 2, 2020 by World Terror Committee. As I’ve mentioned many times before, you can expect two things from any W. T. C. release: that it is occult black metal (or an Absurd or G. B. K. rerelease, seriously, how do they get away with that living in Germany?) and that it will be excruciatingly difficult, or will take an exorbitant amount of time, to obtain a copy in the U. S.

I’m not really sure what the “OD” in the title is supposed to represent. Perhaps “Ordo Diaboli”? I don’t know. Regardless, Serpent Noir is a trio hailing from Athens, the resplendent capital of Greece. Though, not of the spiritual successors to classic Hellenic black metal (e.g., the previously-recognized on this glorified blog, Empire of the Moon). Like their fellow Athenians, Acherontas and Acrimonious (both great bands I suggest you check out immediately), Serpent Noir create music more analogous to the Swedish and, more modern, Greek occult scene than the likes of Necromantia or Rotting Christ. But, they’re far from your typical occult black metal. Their approach is, in a word, lateral. Though their music is full of arpeggiated, dissonant chords; trem-picked, Phrygian melodies; somber, Apollonian leads; and aggressive double blast beats—the way they implement these components is incredibly fascinating, unique, and creative. Their lyrical content is also subject for an entirely different conversation.

Personally, I thought the opener was a waste of effort. A very simple “anti-melody” played over a broken suspended chord. Track 2, “Cutting the Umbilical Cord of Hel”, however, is really where the album kicks off into volcanic fury. Track 3 has a nice, classic feel towards the beginning, which gradually devolves into a sinister, serpentine Gordian knot of complexity. Track 4, “Asmodeus: The Sword of Golachab”, while an interesting name and subject matter, I thought it was the weakest track. It has a strange break close to the end which stopped the momentum (of the song, not the album) dead in its tracks. Unfortunate. Track 5, “Astaroth: The Jaws of Gha’Agsheblah”, has an inimitably creepy tone which one must behold to believe. Track 6, “Necrobiological Chant of Talas”, also had an interesting tone and phenomenal leadwork. The final track, “GOEH RA REAH: Garm Unchained” is probably the best, most varied song on the album; though, I think track 6 is my favorite. It got its very own, insane music video which gave me some serious O9A vibes. The album is decidedly brisk, but not so short that you’ll feel like you’ve been robbed of the $12 street price. I thought it was very well paced except, maybe, the aforementioned track 4.

I don’t want to get hung up on production quality, so I’ll only say, briefly, that it sounded fine, if not – at times – a bit shallow, thin, and dry (at least on the digital, Bandcamp format I heard). Everything sounded good and was clear and audible, so no real complaints.

This album is the music of the sacrificial blood slowly filling the channels of an altar of impossible geometrical parameters. I’ll just have to add this to the copious backlog of good W. T. C. releases that I have yet to obtain. I had listened to their previous album, Erotomysticism (2015) and I’m pretty sure I caught a track or two off their 2012 debut. From what I can remember, I did like them, but not enough to buy them. Death Clan OD, on the other hand, I will definitely buy when I see it hit U. S. record stores. I’m not so enthusiastic about this album that I would go straight ahead and order a copy and have it imported straight from Germany.  It’s better than average occult black metal. Though that may seem like faint praise, Serpent Noir indelibly stand with their heads high above a sea of monotony. I still, nevertheless, think Acherontas remains as the exemplar for this sub-sub-genre (and Greece’s contribution to it). I would recommend it, purely for its originality, to anyone; but, perhaps, wouldn’t deem it essential to anyone save the rabid hordes of occult black metal.

Listen, buy here:

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.