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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.