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My last taste of Italians Ars Macabra was back in 2009 when I discovered their 2nd album ‘Hate Induced Trance’ having been sent it for review. I loved their balls out enthusiasm for wanting to play the most angry, blasting black metal on earth – so it was a double thumbs up from me. Having released a popular split album with Cosmic Ekpyrosis in 2011 (which to my annoyance I somehow missed), fast forward to present day and they’ve finally released their third album, ingeniously titled “III”. More of the same? Well, not exactly… read on.
Ars Macabra 2013 is an evolved beast to the one I last remembered. While the band can still blast like a motherfucker, they’ve introduced an eerier side to their repertoire, with a horripilating creepy vibe that only adds to their overall sound. Needless to say, the basis of their sound still relies heavily on their cinderblock heavy machine gun assault, with bombarding drums, hissing venomous guitar work and gutsfucked vocals from the very pits of hell, but their charm is now multi-faceted. Hummingbird wing picked guitar speed makes up the main body of the album, but they’re not afraid to slam on the brakes, slow their rage down and hone it into a grim, gnarled ball of hatred. Their sound is all so thickly coated in grimy tar, sickening and noxious, infecting the album with a grimly disturbing aura. I must give them kudos for breaking out of their early single-minded destructive mould (as much as I loved it, the new found variation only makes me enjoy their sound more). Surprisingly the mix of the album is clear as day, allowing the guitar melodies to shine – so the vibe actually comes from the minor key disharmonies that are so frequently laid bare, slicing like a razor through filth.
I can certainly make loose comparisons with Marduk’s career evolution to Ars Macabra’s works from what I’ve heard thus far of their music. Their ‘Hate Induced Trance’ album was clearly their own ‘Panzer Division Marduk’, whereas this album is their ‘Wormwood’ or ‘Rom 5:12’, filled with atmosphere and with sinister overtones that don’t rely solely on blasting the shit out of you throughout, yet still thoroughly sating your black metal needs. These guys know how to utilize a simplistic lick to maximum effect – with a cold, shimmering tone they can slow down and make the temperature in your room drop a few degrees, before exploding into tremolo picked hell and turning your entire house into a blazing furnace quick smart.
For those on the lookout for some genuine black metal which has a really powerful quality to it, range, atmosphere and the ability to blow your socks off all wrapped into one, you need look no further than Ars Macabra – proudly delivering the filthy black shit since 1998.
Originally written for www.avenoctum.com
I’ve known of Ars Macabra for years, and have seen a variety of different opinions expressed about them. Among other things, I’ve seen their earlier material labeled as industrial black metal, as well as Marduk/Dark Funeral worship. However, I never thought that either of these descriptions are accurate for any of their works. On this album, Ars Macabra play fast, brutal black metal much of the time, as they always have, but vary it up often with thematically related slower passages. Most of the songs are overall of the fast variety, beginning in a blazing blasting fury, with slower parts seamlessly woven into the aggressive aural fabric. Some of the songs begin with slow to mid paced riffing, and pick up in pace later, such as Cerum Luciferi and Thanatos Projection. Overall, this record can be described as brutal, dark black metal.
The riffing, whether fast or slow, is generally dissonant, featuring mostly tremolo picking during the fast passages, and sinister, atmospheric single note sequences during the slower passages. The predominance of dissonance in the music is reminiscent of French black metal, though displaying no obvious influences in terms of individual bands. But it never gets extreme enough to make the music awkward or hard to listen to (as is sometimes the case with latter day Deathspell Omega and other bands in that vein).
The production on the album is just right - not too raw yet not too polished, and the sound is nice and full. Equally important, the mix is perfect. The drums, though aggressive, don’t drown out everything else, the vocals are up-front but not too high in the mix, and the bass is very audible, and often plays some nice lines, especially when the tempo slows down a bit. Every musician in the band seems very proficient on his instrument; the musicianship is very good and the playing is tight. In terms of the guitar tone, it is thick, distorted, and trebly, well suited for the dissonant riffs. As for the vocals, they are aggressive and delivered with conviction, perhaps a little bit on the lower end in terms of pitch as far as black metal goes. Lyrically, this album deals with Satanism, though in a sophisticated manner, as opposed to Deicide-like childishness, and the lyrics are quite interesting if you take the time to read and digest them.
This album is very good for what it is; a decidedly above average slab of aggressive, dissonant orthodox black metal. The music is well played and the songs are well written and quite complex. This might not be the most original music around, but on the other hand, there really isn’t much room for originality with this kind of black metal. However, I still can’t say that this sounds exactly like any other band, or sounds predominantly influenced by any one particular band, but it does sound like the band almost has a French sound to it, though hailing from Italy. If you are a fan of fast, dissonant orthodox black metal, this is an album you want to hear.