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Scandinavian metallers hailing from Denmark release their second album in 2012 ‘Death and the Beyond’ after over 20 years of also releasing a mixture of demos, EPs, and a single as well as a split. Listening to Denial of God’s discography from beginning to end, the listener will encounter a drastic evolution in performance and song writing. This is a band that have clearly persevered the perils and knock backs of being an underground metal act with an uncompromising passion for horror and an earnest ambition to become the band they are today.
All of this band's previous releases have been a concept of horror, whether it be ghost stories, disturbing tales from history or simply folklore. ‘Death and the Beyond’ is no different. However it does differ in sound, boasting a more sombre, melancholic atmosphere which is more than relevant when taking the well written lyrics into account. The vocalist ‘Ustumallagam’ writes all the lyrics on the album except for one song (Funeral) and rather than uttering vague passages or phrases he uses a storytelling approach which I think works excellently. This makes listening to the album and reading along with the lyrics far more immersive, enjoyable and it just compliments the music so well.
As for the music, D.O.G have been known to describe their style as ‘black horror metal’. Whilst this may sound a bit silly, this is more than some stupid gimmick (like ‘viking metal’) since the horror themed notion isn’t just based on the lyrics but extends towards the way the instruments are being played. Yes, some riffs sound like metal versions of something you’d hear in a retro horror flick (intro to ‘Funeral’ for example), some guitar parts use a creepy cosmic/celestial tone sound to strike terror and inspire the belief in the paranormal (hostile spirits, consciousness after death etc.) also thrown in are some very enjoyable old school heavy metal riffs similar to (Maiden or early Venom) Burzum/Mayhem esque black metal riffs too and one track uses a more doomish approach. The instrument that really stands out for me are the drums. The drums are so natural sounding, with a really warm and low tone on the snare which just makes this album a pleasure to listen to. Lastly, since I have already mentioned my love for the lyrics, I’d like to comment on the vocals themselves. Most black metal vocalists use a higher pitched ‘howl’ or ‘shriek’ to sound as though they are possessed by a demon or Satan himself. Same thing here, however, rather than sounding like a host of said demon, Ustumallagam manages to take a form of the entity himself (with a big help from the excellently applied reverb) it sounds like an extremely harmful, sinister entity is screaming through the hallways of an abandoned castle of a dark forgotten history.
I’ve been listening to this album for two years now, and although it caught my attention the second I laid ears on it my admiration hasn’t diminished. Put out by Hells Head Bangers, the art work and layout is just awesome. I got the picture disc LP, the CD and even the cassette to play in my car on those dark nights and long drives by myself. This should be enjoyable for anyone who has a good taste in classic heavy metal like King Diamond or simply enjoys second wave black metal with dephy songwriting structures. Being a fan of horror (like myself) packs a huge bonus though.
So wait until night time, turn the lights off (light some candles if you can), hit play and enjoy the darkness.
Denial Of God have been in existence since the beginning of the 90′s, and ‘Death And The Beyond’ is only their second album proper, having released an abundance of EP’s prior to releasing their debut ‘The Horrors Of Satan’ in 2006. Having something of a cult credibility to their name, and with this album seeing release and distribution from a label as respectable as Hells Headbangers, one can’t deny a certain impulse towards needing to give this Danish act a listen.
Aesthetically and along with the external appearance of the band, and their use of artwork, one immediately thinks of occult legends such as the Misfits and Death SS, and generally all of the prototypes of what are now associated as ‘norms’ within black metal, having the same outlandishness in their imagery that defined many of those pioneering acts. Whilst this certainly adds flavour and nuances Denial Of God’s musical work, it would be misleading to suggest that these components are the sole source of influence.
After opening with a gothic, piano/keyboard led intro ‘Veni Spiritus’ the track ‘Funeral’ brings proceedings to a steady beginning, with the main lead riff resembling a less doomy ‘Gate Of Nanna’ by Beherit, but given with the cold syncopated execution you’d hear from a Swedish band like Throne Of Ahaz. Whilst a pleasing track, it’s worth is only confirmed when the upbeat, tremolo picked lead riff of ‘Behind The Coffin’s Lid’ kicks in. Accentuated by a clean middle passage that immediately brings to the first full length by Death SS, the riff structure of the song becomes more prone to using techniques familiar of their 80′s metal influences, becoming more conspicuous as the album moves on.
“The Cursed Chamber” allows this to predominate, with some wonderful arpeggiated riffs, the first of which mildly recalls Tormentor’s ‘Elisabeth Bathory’, whilst the riff that suceeds the mid-section has a similarity to W.A.S.P.’s ‘Wild Child’, only fitted to the more aggressive context of Denial Of God’s black metal assault.
“Bones Turn To Dust” keeps a slow to mid-pace, with the trebly, melodic guitars counterbalanced with interludes of pastoral, semi-folky guitars. The single string picking is here mildly reminiscent of Sorcier Des Glaces, still with melancholy, but perhaps not as cathartic as said French-Canadians. This formula is eminent on the following track, “Black Dethe” but ups the pace to a more standard Norse backdrop, retaining the same sense of melodic expression, essentially leaving off from where the previous track finished and rounding it up.
This leaves us with a short piano/keyboard interlude, which leads us into the final epic ‘Pendulum Swings’, which amalgamates all of the individual influences and components that permeate the whole of ‘Death And the Beyond’, conforming with the obvious components of a symphonic finale, rounding off the album in a brilliant manner.
You’d be expecting something that’s overwhelmingly ‘fun’ and ‘entertaining’ from this release but so it happens, it’s quite easy to judge a book by its cover. It’s certainly enjoyable without doubt, as well as catchy, infectious and by the standards of underground metal, is by far and out more ‘listener-friendly’ and accessible than many bands receiving a large share of acclaim within black and death metal circles.
Not only this, Denial Of God know how to stick together minimal ideas and forge them into epic songs. In addition, compositions are gelled together perfectly. Nothing feels wrong or otherwise out of place, something which wasn't fully realized on their otherwise classy debut. ‘Death And The Beyond’ nails it though. It’s triumphant.
Another contender for best album of 2012.
Black metal is often, if not mostly, affiliated with satanism and anti-christianity, so believe me when I say I was surprised to find that Denial of God, despite their ungodly name, has very little focus on those subjects.
Denial of God is a Danish band that is locally well known. They've released one album and a slew of EPs prior to Death and the Beyond, but I never really got around to checking them out. For those unfamiliar with the Danish trio, they have surprisingly little in common with your typical, garden variety black metal band. They seem to be more inspired by King Diamond and Mercyful Fate than other bands in the genre, and their sound and structure certainly aren't as chaotic and tremolo-based as many others, and lyrically "Death and the Beyond" leans a lot less on the typical satanic material as I had expected, especially because their previous album had satanic themes.
Death and the Beyond boasts a wide variety of material. Starting out with the mood-setting piano-piece Veni Spiritus and ending with the 15 minute black metal epic Pendulum Swings the 45 minutes in between features everything from the melancholically uplifting and almost ballad-like Behind the Coffin's Lid to more traditional black metal tracks like Black Dethe and The Cursed Chamber.
Of Denial of God's second album can generally be said that it relies heavily on holding single notes rather than shredding away at 200 BPMs as well as atmospheres that can mostly be described as cemetary or crypt-like. Their focus on somber melodies like in the tracks Funeral and Bones Turn to Dust makes for a truly alternate take on Scandinavian black metal in 2012.
In regards to musicianship it goes without saying that Denial of God may not be the most technical band around, but their particular style of black metal suits a more simple songwriting much better. Death and the Beyond is a simple and effective album and is easily one of the better black metal releases I've heard this year so far. Ustumallagam's sepulchral vocals in conjunction with the despairing guitars of Azter and the great drum tracks of Galheim makes up a recipe for brilliant and different black metal. What can I say, finally a black metal band that doesn't just ape everything their Norwegian counterparts do.
Originally written for http://gouls-crypt.blogspot.com/
Considering their 21 year history, Danes Denial of God have had a rather quiet career, producing at first a long series of EPs through the 90s that eventually led up to some more substantial works in recent times. Death and the Beyond is only the band's second full-length album, but I've got to admit that I do enjoy the atmosphere and concept the band is attempting to manifest, if not so much the songwriting and execution. Like many bands of their ilk, there is the fascination with Satan and the occult, but they attempt to capture more of a supernatural horror feel through the album that brings about comparisons to acts like Mortuary Drape, Mercyful Fate, and King Diamond, even though the musical manifestation is quite different.
Quite liked the cover on this album, simple yet colorful and elegant, and the Gothic piano/vocal intro "Veni Spiritus" led me to believe that this would be quite a lot more atmospheric than it turned out. The band does implement pianos, synthesizers, and cleaner guitars to help break out the meatier riffing, but in general they play in a fairly minimal, subdued brand of black metal with a balance of slower, Celtic Frost-inspired grooves like you'll hear in "Funeral" and mid-paced, flowing rhythms with a hint of thrash ("The Cursed Chamber"). The production on the record is quite clean, especially the drums and guitar tone, so it makes for a smoother transition to the less metallic segues strewn about the track list, but it often leeches some of the riffs from a potential, rawer power that might have benefited their general lack of nuance and aggression. That said, Denial of God are no strangers to variation: they are not constantly repeating themselves here, fully capable of launching into a blasted rhythm with tremolo guitars in a total 90s fashion ("Behind the Coffin's Lid", the faster segments of "Black Dethe") or meting out an incorporeal interlude ("Spectral Lights").
The vocals are nothing out of the ordinary, almost like a thicker Satyr rasp but with a few deviations into the Gothic, solemn narrative I hinted at before. Death and the Beyond does suffer from some bloat, with a number of tunes exceeding 9 minutes and the grand finale, "Pendulum Swings" hitting 15. If the songs were actually creepier, or at least featured more malevolent passages interspersed with the dryer fare, then this would be easier to ingest, but too often here I felt that the guitars were uninspired and the little key melodies, which were often used to create a morbid lullaby, just went nowhere. Ultimately, my frustration with this album stemmed from the fact that, while I dig what the Danes are trying to achieve, the actual music does not live up to the breathtaking, ghostly theme, and I found myself admiring the more spacious, atmospheric segues as in "Bones turn to Dust" than the actual metal content. This is by no means an unpleasant or bad record, but it doesn't possess the thrills and chills I expected when looking upon it.