If there is one thing metal critics hate, it’s consistency. Satan forbid a band should find a sound that works for them (not to mention their fans) and stick with it, dooming their albums to forever be referred to in print as “more of the same” “a rehash” “nothing you haven’t heard before” etc, etc. Luckily, I’m not a critic, and I love it when bands I enjoy give me exactly what I want. Such is the case with Austrian black/death heavyweights Belphegor, who’ve returned from an uncharacteristic three year silence with Conjuring the Dead. To say that it’s everything you’d expect from a Belphegor record would probably be the understatement of the decade, but predictability isn’t much of a factor when what you’re predicted to do is kick ass.
I hadn’t intended to review The Satanist; Behemoth has long been a favorite band of mine and I had planned to enjoy their first new recording in five years purely as a fan. Sometimes it’s good to just kick back and blast an album at top volume without having to analyze its every nook and cranny, and I was looking forward to doing just that. But the thing is, while I certainly didn’t expect Behemoth to disappoint, I also didn’t expect them to take such a stunning turn, releasing one of their best albums to date a full twenty-three years deep into their career.
It’s been twenty-two years since Dead blew his brains out, twenty years since Varg Vikernes murdered Euronymous, and eighteen years since the last church burning in Norway. Yet somehow there are still people that talk about black metal as if it’s something controversial in 2013. This of course is laughable; surely at this point only a child would be stuck on (or worse yet, enamored with) the idea that black metal in this day and age is anything more than a style of music or a form of entertainment.
The last time I wrote about the Swedish sensation known as Ghost, I stated that the less I thought of them as a metal band, the more I found myself enjoying them. Their debut album Opus Eponymous was released on a metal label (Rise Above/Metal Blade) and featured distorted guitars, but was at its core a pop album; those vocal harmonies were more about The Beach Boys than Mercyful Fate, and the songs themselves were saccharine odes to Satan so addictive that I imagined even Pat Robertson’s wrinkly old Dungeons & Dragons-hating ass would have a hell of a time keeping them out of his head if he were ever exposed. Indeed, Ghost were an anomaly in the metal world; a band that praised Lucifer with the best of them, but did so in a way that actually stood a chance of sending the average joe or jane down ye olde left hand path.
2012 has been more stressful than a motherfucker; probably one of the most all-around stressful years of my life. Buying a house + assorted family and work-related issues that I wouldn’t even dream of getting into here managed to turn the year into a goddamn pressure-cooker. I’m pretty sure the only things that kept me alive were my wife’s unwavering love (and limitless patience) and an avalanche of incredible music. In 2011 I was feeling pretty jaded and dissatisfied with the state of heavy metal, this year I found myself feeling better about things than I have in years. That isn’t to say there weren’t great albums released in 2011, there were, but in 2012 I felt like there was so much greatness that I couldn’t possibly keep up with it all.
Regular THKD readers may recall me championing the living shit out of Santa Cruz’s Fiends at Feast last year after they sent me a copy of their stellar Shadows of Extinction EP (here and here). At the time, the band were self-releasing their material, which was only available at shows. A lot can change in just a year; Fiends at Feast now have label backing from the up-and-coming Horror Pain Gore Death Productions and as a result have released a brutalizing debut album in the form of Towards the Baphomet’s Throne, a recording which sees the quintet pushing their music to even more malevolent extremes.
To listen to the three full length albums Weapon have released since 2009 is to witness a band searching for their sound. This is not meant as a knock on the Canadian quartet, in fact quite to the contrary; bands are supposed to evolve and grow from album to album. This fact is often lost in the context of death and black metal, where more often than not a lazy “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude prevails. Weapon spit blood and fire in the face of that attitude; they’re ambitious, dedicated craftsmen with world domination on their minds. Embers and Revelations, the latest in that aforementioned trio of albums, is the band’s most complete and commanding work to date, a work that sees Weapon finding that sweet spot between death metal’s pulverizing violence and black metal’s Luciferian spitefulness; harnessing it to create something totally their own.