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I picked up "Horoskopus" at a Best Buy a few months after seeing Book of Black Earth live, and I must say say, I was blown away. Aside from the incredible live performance these guys put on, the album performance just about matches it. 2160 starts off the record with a slow, epic doom riff, that slowly builds upon itself before climaxing and giving forth into "Death of the Sun". There is slightly less keyboard action here on "Horoskopus" I have noticed, but not to fear! It does not detract from the feel of the album, but instead contributes a raw, visceral feel, that the band only flirted with on "The Feast". The carnage and vibe of "Death of the Sun", continues for the next couple of tracks until "Cult of Dagon", the slowest of all 11 songs. One of the most atmospheric as well, one can feel the scourge of society as T.J. Cowgill bellows "There is no God!" in a tortured wail reminiscent of Satan himself.
I have heard a lot of people compare Book of Black Earth's sound mainly to that of the Swedish death metal scene, and even the Black Dahlia Murder. Seriously? I have listened to this album countless times, and what I hear is instead more of a straightforward death metal approach, mixed often with black metal, and sometimes grindcore-esque drumming. One other element of music that I have yet to see anybody pick up on, is the massive crust influence that Book of Black Earth implements. This can be be seen on such tracks as "From Heaven" and "Christ Pathogen", where in the intro of the latter, one can recall the acoustic lead in to "Drink and be Merry" by Amebix. The atmosphere of the album also can't stop me from recalling such acts as His Hero is Gone, and Axegrinder as well. Add a heavy dollop of sludgy doom metal, and voila! You have Book of Black Earth.
To anyone who is a fan of death metal, black metal, sludge/doom, grindcore, or even crust, this record will not disappoint. If you can, go see them live. It's such an amazing experience that so many bands do not live up to these days. It's just so fucking dark! Pitch black! That vibe is not lost in the record either. Standout tracks include: 2160, Death of the Sun, Horoskripture, Cult of Dagon, Funeral of Peace, From Heaven, and Christ Pathogen. Enjoy it like the evil motherfuckers you are!
Though this is only my first exposure to this young Seattle band, it's their second album, and they were formed from the remains of another band Teen Cthulhu, who I had heard before. The band is also busy touring and building a following here in the States, so it was high time to hear what all the fuss was about.
The opening track "2160" is a slow intro piece with some simple, doom laden guitars and synths. Once "Death of the Sun" cuts in, you can really get a feel for the band's stripped down style. It's fairly raw, chunky death metal with a few occasional forays into a more upbeat, melodic direction. Unfortunately, while I have no problem with such a style, I just didn't find much here that drew me in. The riffs are tolerable, the album is sufficiently brutal, but I found most of it mired down in kind of boring death metal chug/groove riffs, with some dull keyboards meant to add in 'atmosphere' but adding little. When the band opts towards an even doomier direction ala "Cult of Dagon", it somehow manages to become even less interesting.
I've heard some praise for this band so I'm assuming they must put on some sort of sick live shows, because musically there is very little here of any originality or interest. It doesn't entirely reek of the metalcore stench, but there is that little subtext with the melodeath guitar riffs which sound like a few thousand other US bands of the At the Gates/Black Dahlia Murder variety. Still, the band tastefully moves this in a more direct, simple, brutal direction, so they're not quite a knockoff.
The result? Meh.
When I saw this album I just thought that I would have to deal with one more classic Prosthetic Records release. You know, all this modern Hardcore/Metalcore stuff is not exactly what I call "a pleasant listening experience". The good thing is that BOOK OF BLACK EARTH is not exactly what I expected to hear and I guess that’s a really good start.
The US metallers were formed in 2003. The band has already managed to have a demo, a split CD (with FALL OF THE BASTARDS) and a full-length album out. Their brand new album "Horoskopus" is their second full-length effort and as the band’s vocalist/guitarist TJ Cowgill says, it is about hidden astrological elements of the Christian church. Anyway, let’s see if their first album through Prosthetic Records will bring these guys any luck.
BOOK OF BLACK EARTH’s music is surely something interesting, mostly due to the fact that the US metallers have managed to mix many different elements, all coming from the extreme side of Metal. Their music is mostly based on a brutal Death Metal foundation, having also fragments from the US Black Metal scene, as well as some early Swedish Death Metal elements. Throughout the album, I came across parts that reminded me of NILE, others that reminded me of AT THE GATES and others that slightly reminded me of the US LEVIATHAN. The only characterization I can think of right now about this album is that this is the work that Trey Azagoth would release today if he was 20 years old. Sounds kind of glorious, huh? Well, don’t get too excited since there are some pretty negative points in this release...
First of all, the production is totally shitty. Imagine the above mentioned magnificent music dressed in a demo level production. Rotten guitar sound, ’empty’ drums and vocals that needed some extra editing before the release of the album. One more thing is that without having huge song lengths (except from the last song which is almost 10 minutes long), the album manages to "exhaust" the listener at some parts. I guess "Horoskopus" is not the record you can listen to two times in a row without getting bored. So, I try to put the positive and the negative things together and what I see is a talented band that needs some slight improvement to make us shit our pants. These guys are pretty fresh and they have a long road before them. Give them a chance and be sure that the future hides many surprises.
Originally written for Metal-Temple.Com