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You would think that black metal would be dead by now. You would think that it would have remained a strange anomoly from the early 90's, a sub-genre amongst sub-genres, forever remaining stuck in it's own singular conventions; an adherence to three chord nihilism stilting it's growth.
But that never happened. Upon further study, black metal was really just too weird, too unformed, to simply molder in the tomb. It's very existence suggests experimentation. It really was just a form of ambient music, at least when the Norwegians unleashed their formations upon the unsuspecting. And as a genre, it has been expanded upon and multiplied, sub genres forming out of sub genres, each mutation subtly altering the soundscape.
And over 20 years later, the Norwegians are still on the vangard, breathing new life into a form that has every right to be a rotting corspe. Take Dødsengel new album, Mirium Occultum, for instance. Currently the darlings of the underground, these necrofiends find new ground for their gravework. This is a dank, echoy scream from the crypt, a true demon conjuring.
The album recalls Mayhem at their best and also the new wave of American audio fiendry like Leviathan and Xasthur, but it really is hard to put your finger on what makes this album work. Perhaps it's how the raw production values lower your expectations. You really are getting a raw black metal experience, but one with so much subtle variety and layers. The guitars are layed on thick and bloody, with hints of gentleness in the quieter parts, the bass a distant rumble. The drums are a crisp racket, with much fine cymbal work. The vocalist is a evocotive screamer, applying a variety of shrieks, bellows, murmurs and even a few plaintive cries from the abyss. Evocation of Amezarak is the centerpiece of the album, a nearly 20 minutes musical invocation of darkness, that doesn't come across as a formless jam.
Also, the lyrics are a pleasant surprise, poetic and chilling, but not without humor. A Word To Conquer the Aeon contains this gem, delivered with an evil smirk:
"In the beginning was the word,
and the word was with god.
And the word was the word,
what a wonderfull word it was!"
"And the word is NIHIL"
This album is not all perfection, as the songs tend to blur into one another, almost too intense for a single listen. But for the most part, this is state of the art black metal, containing everything that is true and cvlt about the genre without decending into cliche.