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Hail the cult - 76%

iamntbatman, July 1st, 2013

The tracks for Blood Red Fog's Death Cult EP's were laid down by the B.R.F./Profundiis/Desolate lineup, the same trio that recorded the band's splits with Verge and Cosmic Church in the years preceding the release of these two EP's. Therefore, despite coming out just a couple months before their full-length Harvest, the material here sounds much different from that on their most recent album. Notably, the band hadn't swapped Profundiis for multi-instrumentalist/clean vocalist extraordinaire Shu-Ananda as of these recordings, so you won't hear any of the deep, powerful clean vocals that made for nice additions to Harvest.

That said, the songs here are still really powerful. Melodies are led more by Desolate's driving bass than they are by B.R.F.'s icy guitar. The riffs are typically pretty simple, but always nice and melodic. The double-tracking on the guitars makes for some interesting harmonics, especially in the slow part of the title track. “With Open Arms” jams on just a couple of chords for most of its duration, with a subtle but effective lead line all but buried under the chords. And that bass! Slinky, snaking bass slithers its way under everything, never shouting out for attention but always holding it nonetheless.

Though these two EP's were recorded around the same time, the production differs slightly from one to the next. Unfortunately, it gets worse as it progresses: the sound on Death Cult I is pretty good, albeit with somewhat buried vocals (in B.R.F.'s trademark ritualist, chanting raspy style with loads of echo that he's been using for a while now) but the second EP has worse overall guitar sound. Instead of getting fair treatment, the right-channel guitar on Death Cult II is pretty trebly and clear, but the left-side guitar, which tends to be used for the rhythm while the right side acts as lead, has loads of static and is hard to make out beyond a general sense of texture. Worse sonic crimes have been committed, though, because the right channel guitar does a good enough job of keeping the tremolo melodies going that you'll hardly notice how non-descript the left side sounds. At least the bass maintains its tone and presence throughout both EP's, as it's pretty central to the band's sound.

Though the songs on Death Cult II are longer than those on Death Cult I, I feel that they're generally a bit weaker. Even with the extra time to develop their ideas, the songs are a little rhythmically monotonous, often with straight blasting sections lasting for several minutes on end. It could be that the band was moving toward their more minimalistic approach, a hallmark of Harvest, for this second EP, but the faster pace of these songs compared to the four tracks on Harvest makes them a little blurrier and generally a lot less memorable. Still, the second half of “The Scythe Remains at Bay” is really solid, and “Pierced by Black Rays” is a cool track that almost feels like blackened blues at times. “Malice” is a good track through and through Overall, though, I'd say that the first EP is the stronger of the two, with the more consistently engaging songwriting and more effective production.

While not quite as compelling as the band's full lengths (especially the brilliant Harvest), this compilation is sure to satisfy fans of Blood Red Fog's other material as well as those who simply can't get enough high quality Finnish black metal. Of the material here, the Death Cult I stuff is stronger and has production a little closer to the standards set by the full lengths, though in both cases it beats out the production on compatriots' Cosmic Church's EP compilation by a few car lengths. Newcomers to the band would probably be better served going to either of the band's full lengths, or possibly to one of their splits, which I haven't heard personally but apparently contain some of the band's stronger between-album material.