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Want factory-direct, purposeless black metal? Then go ahead and salivate to Limbonic Art’s next atrocious, manufactured heap of garbage. The level to which a band could produce such sterile, overly long video game background music astounds me. No energy, no inspiration, and over an hour and fifteen minutes of such dreck to drain the life out of you. It turns a dumpy whirl of waste into a monotonous, massive shit.
To go positive, I’ll hand it to the guys for certain riffs like on the title track and “The Supreme Sacrifice." Such riffs could have been utilized in a better way, but on their own they have potential. Going the black route, a band like Inquisition could have made a thrashy bridge with properly tainted atmosphere. Going the industrial route, a band like Ministry could supply a good beat or lick to compliment the riffs. Anything that results in a better outcome than the pathetic backing role Limbonic Art provided here would work. The band’s formula of desiccated riffs churned through surging amps does not correspond with plastic keys, tiresome compositions, trailing bass, isolated screams, and drum machine blasturbation. It’s a trainwreck that’s more or less a terrible attempt at merging black metal with video game music – and a bad Mortal Kombat knock-off kind at that.
Add Limbonic Art’s uncreative ability to try and fuse in dance drum tracks and we’ve got a collage of shit. That’s the problem with too many genres on an album – stretching everything out to fit all the junk (and without competent writing to do it). The product is black metal, industrial, electronic music, ‘90s radical video game music, and a failed endeavor at trying to make it all sound classy and evil. The band accomplishes squeezing in these genres, but nothing about this album is evil or prestigious. Don’t let the mutilated, saturated vocals and toy synths fool you. Ad Noctum’s as dark and evil as the Creepy Castle level on Donkey Kong 64. No amount of aggressive riffing, automated screams, and programmed blast beats can change this fact.
Nothing can be gained by listening to this clusterfuck of barking guitars, cheap keys, and assembly-line produced atmosphere as inert as stone Dragon Balls. To find black metal as long and soulless as this is like feeling a piss stain on the toilet seat unexpectedly after you’ve sat down. The anger that boils after such a discovery is only matched by the freedom one feels from never having to subject themself to this trash ever again.
How can I even begin to describe the greatness that is found in Limbonic Art's Ad Noctum: Dynasty of Death? Ad Noctum is definitely the band's best work and I don't think it will ever be dethroned. For starters, it has all the best ingredients of an extreme metal album. It's heavy as fuck, the dark and pulsing atmosphere is prevelant throughout, the lyrics are interesting and catchy, and the songwriting suggests that the band really put a lot of time into this. There's lots of variety going on. As far as performance goes, Daemon and Morfeus are really at their best.
Ad Noctum is best defined as the band's "bridge" album. It combines the epic, symphonic. and catchy elements of the previous albums along with the brutal, abrasive, and spacey nature of later albums. This is one of those albums where the the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, because the end product sounds truly amazing. The first thing you may notice is how loud the drums and the riffs are. Despite only using a drum machine, these guys really knew how to program it well. The percussions really make the music feel agressive and out of this world. The guitars come out very clearly, but are also so menacing. As opposed to their fuzzy or light sounds in previous albums, here they are much more noticeable and not buried by keyboards. The sound is BIG. Whenever I hear this album, I picture large asteroids and comets in space crashing violently into each other. I think of small meteorites pounding the hell out of random moons and planets in the darkest corners of space. Considering how many of these songs are astronomy-themed, Limbonic Art could not have done a better job providing the music for this type of setting. If you thought the overuse of keyboards and symphonies was in previous Limbonic Art albums, they have taken somewhat of a backseat to the rest of the music. They have a more faint sound in the background and are usually most audible within the slowdowns and quieter parts within songs. You could probably say that the keyboards are the seasoning while the guitars, drums, and vocals act as the main course. Daemon's vocals are at their best here, too. He's pretty consistent with those loud, roaring shrieks, but it's all performed very well. He never goes into that weird Shagrathy- style like he sometimes does in In Abhorrence Dementia or Epitome of Illusions. Whatever he sounds like, it's damn appropriate for this album.
The tracks on Ad Noctum are amazing and there aren't any fillers here. They're meaty and filled with tons of twists and variety. "As the Bell of Immolation Calls" is a classic, using a slow, progressive approach to build the intensity. Morfeus' guitarwork is stellar and makes the track that much more memorable. I would also like to point out how dark and hypnotic these tracks are. Despite the music feeling very loud and pronounced, the frequency and sound is done perfectly so that my mind is easily projected elsewhere. This idea really comes up in "Behind the Darkened Walls of Sleep", where the quieter, breakdown-like part has a tremendous hypnotic effect on the listener. The vocals come in faintly and random guitar notes are played, but the atmosphere is so dark, yet chaotic; almost like the process of a new star being born. If you want to feel more of the heaviness, the song "Dynasty of Death", serves as a great example of everything coming together at once. I love the effect of the drum machine because it gives the song a more mechanical, industrial feel. "The Supreme Sacrifice" even shows Limbonic Art's thrashy side....the band is in rare form here, hinting of a possible direction towards symphonic thrash metal.
I could go on for days about the greatness of these tracks. In fact, I haven't even brought up my personal favorite, "In Embers of Infernal Greed." But I don't want to spoil the whole album. As the listener, you can find a lot of cool things here. Even the title tracks are cool - they have sort of that connotation towards dark, objects in the infinite universe. Every little element here is congruent with the next, creating a product of supreme excellence. I'm sure many of you have heard many different symphonic black metal bands and extreme metal with space themes, but Ad Noctum: Dynasty of Death is tough to really categorize. It's something else completely, and damn, it's awesome. Go buy this one and take special efforts to go for the version with those bonus tracks. You don't want to miss a single second of this masterpiece!
Limbonic Art's career contained two break-ups and a substantial deviation stylistically from beginning to present. Daemon and Morfeus initially played a fairly pedestrian blend of symphonic black metal featuring an over-saturation of keyboards and overcooked pomp. Their later releases would feature a better balance between guitars and keyboards, but would lack the killer instinct present earlier on. The perfect balance was struck somewhere in between these two extremes. That balance resulted in Ad Noctum - Dynasty of Death, an unbelievable piece of work that cannot be totally appreciated upon first listen.
To start off, where the hell did this even come from? While Limbonic Art's previous release Epitome of Illusions consisted primarily of re-recorded demo material, there were no stylistic hints that the band was going for the abrasive inclination present here. The swirling barrage of Morfeus' tremolo riffs combines with the occasional, macerating death metal passage forming an abrasive wall of distortion that just breaks down over the listener in near-overwhelming fashion. Take the mid-paced, imperial opening riff of "As the Bell of Immolation Calls" (not counting the atmospheric buildup); the band keeps upping the ante, adding layer after layer of melodic brutality that is so excessive that is becomes something almost otherworldly.
The title track stands high and mighty above all though. It begins with a more measured, dissonant tremolo passage that opens up into a crushing gallop joined by the ethereal keyboards and Daemon's roaring intonation. The song can be viewed as two separate pieces joined by an atmospheric bridge that gives the listener a much-needed break to gather his wits and prepare for the opening of the gates. The second half embodies a massive release of tension that simply never lets up. Right when you begin to think "There is no way this can keep going at this momentum", Limbonic Art makes you eat your words. Again, and again. For the most potent individual riff, skip to about 1:10 in "The Supreme Sacrifice". How is that so catchy yet so brutal and caustic? Later-era Limbonic Art such as this always treads the thin line between unbelievably dissonant and upbeat from a melodic standpoint. The risk yields great returns in this case.
There are also Middle-Eastern overtones, for some reason. This is initially most apparent on the album artwork, as the back cover features the Egyptian god of the dead, Anubis. This would normally just come off as window-dressing but the band injects some very subtle melodic hints of this theme during some of the tracks. The primal, detonating intro of "The Supreme Sacrifice" features a backing keyboard line that flirts around in the phrygian dominant scale, and the crushing release of energy during the closing moments of "The Yawning Abyss of Madness" also evokes a similar atmosphere. This may be the single most important element that raises Ad Noctum - Dynasty of Death to greatness over the band's other, more traditionally gothic soundscapes.
The vocals deserve special mention. Particularly during "The Supreme Sacrifice", which features a multi-layered, death metal approach that embodies primal rage as Daemon delivers esoteric lyrics like "Thought are tyrants that always return to rape and torment the heart". "In Embers of Infernal Greed" is worth a mention in this regard, as it rides out on a groovy, monolithic riff set that has the vocals overlapping as Daemon shrieks "In my heart's enigma, man is an anathema". There are also some Latin passages, which comes off as novel in this case, and I have managed to fit the term "Dementia praecox" into my daily vocabulary in honor of this album.
A perfect score is just out of reach due to two major factors: the excessive length and the production imbalances. I forgive the former more than the later, as some of these songs' appeal is a direct benefit of their ability to build and release tension multiple times before they conclude. The production issues manifest themselves primarily regarding the programmed drums. While more convincing than the performance on The Ultimate Death Worship it is still a bit wanting by virtue of the unusual drum samples. The snare sounds okay, but the lower toms sound really bizarre and artificial. Regardless, even this can be viewed as a stylistic decision in light of the synthetic nature of Limbonic Art's music as a whole. It is almost as if its electronic, mechanized appeal is a direct result of the approach itself.
I have actually re-written this review two times, as my opinion of it continues to improve as I notice more hidden melodies and elements that slowly reveal themselves over time. Some may find my efforts as an excessive waste of time, but these guys deserve an honest, appreciative appraisal of the masterpiece that is Ad Noctum - Dynasty of Death. My spirit is awaiting the incinerator. No anxiety. No pain. Just everlasting sleep.
(Revised/Updated 1/29/14) (For the last time?)
I know I chose a strange header, but that's basically what Limbonic Art's "Ad Noctum – Dynasty of Death" sounds like. The atmosphere it creates is very dark, but at the same time very "spacey". When listening to this under black metal default settings – i.e. in a dark room and/or at night – and at a reasonable volume level, it really feels like sitting in an gloomy gothic cathedral, with these two guys’ (Morfeus & Daemon) noise reverberating from every wall and the electronic elements adding the spacey, aural feeling.
The term "symphonic black metal" is usually used to describe very epic pieces, taking a lot of time to build up and develop song structures, and Limbonic Art's previous albums are no exceptions. This time, however, they take a different approach. Gone are the days of their lengthy keyboard parts; except for one track on the album, there is no build-up here. Some songs feature a 20-second synth intro, but after that at the latest all hell breaks loose with full force. All the song's elements are thrown at you at once, leaving you helplessly lost in all that musical mayhem, so unless you're familiar with this type of music, it might take several listens to get into the album.
So much for atmosphere and the general impression, next is the music. Be careful if you like their previous releases because Limbonic Art have become much harder and more noisy than ever before. While the keyboards had always been the dominant element on their first three albums, there is now some kind of an equal balance between keyboards and guitars. Although the guitars tend to be given a little preference, often giving the main melody while the keys just play along to make the music more "complete", neither of the two ever drowns the other; usually it's the combination of both that carries the musical themes and creates the symphonic, atmospheric, full sound. The drumming, done by a computer, fits in extremely well and provides some great blast parts, too, which will just make you hammer against your desk or some other piece of furniture (or bang your head, if that's more your thing). In any case, don't expect the melodies on here to be clear and in the centre of the songs, but be prepared for a lot of noise on different layers. It's hard to explain, but Limbonic Art's music is not based on individual instruments and their performances, but all the elements together create something like a "wall of sound" that just breaks down over you.
On a throne atop all this sits Daemon, the vocalist. The interesting thing about his vocals is that, no matter how fast the music gets, they almost always stay rather slow and stately, with long vowels. Electronic reinforcements make them sound even more majestic and powerful, plus they are louder in the mix – compared to the instruments – than in most other bands. Although the lyrics seem to be an important part in the Limbonic Art concept and the vocals are there to carry a message, they are used as kind of an instrument as well, being the final element to complete Limbonic Art's unique sound.
To summarise my review in one sentence, Morfeus and Daemon have produced an excellent album with a great dark atmosphere, merging all the different elements together to form a very interesting and complex mixture of sounds. "Ad Noctum – Dynasty of Death" is maybe not an album you'll immediately fall in love with, but it's worth taking your time to get into it and realise its brilliance.
Favourite tracks: The Dark Paranormal Calling, Dynasty of Death, The Supreme Sacrifice