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Limbonic Art is a black metal band unique in many respects. Their career contained two break-ups and a substantial deviation stylistically from beginning to present. Daemon & 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 amazing album that cannot be totally appreciated upon first listen.
An overwhelming wall of sound defines what goes through the listener's mind at first blush. The production is a fuzzy typical black metal mix in many regards. However, the difference lies in countless hidden hooks and melodies that slowly reveal themselves upon each subsequent listen. The songs essentially break down upon the listener, separating into multiple layers responsible together for the massive final sound.
Each song is it's own unique monster of an arrangement, from "Pits of The Cold Beyond" with its fun shout-along chorus to the crushing release of energy at the end of "The Yawning Abyss of Madness". The weakest track is surprisingly the opener "The Dark Paranormal Calling". The album quickly saves face with the unbelievable "As The Bell of Immolation Calls". After a three minute build up Morfeus breaks into one of the greatest mid-paced black metal riffs ever heard, which serves as the main foundation of the song as the momentum continues to build for six minutes thereafter. The average song length is well over five minutes, yet surprises lurk around every corner; such as the choral-driven "Timor et tremor..." section in "Pits..." or the fucking awesome "Locus Reconditus Occulta Tenebrarum" during the title track.
Daemon employs a varied harsh vocal approach which alternates from a typical black metal croak to the multi-layered roar which turns heads in "The Supreme Sacrifice": a new definition of primal rage. Morfeus contributes an avant-garde edge with his six-string aptitude and keyboard theatrics. His departure left a gaping wound present on 2010's Phantasmagoria, which pales next to this release. As stated above, a perfect balance was struck between the guitars and keyboards. The keys lend a synthetic, "spacey" sound with tactful use of patches and orchestral voices. The keys no longer sound overtly cheap, a fault which brought down Limbonic Art's previous work and neutered the sinister overtones.
The biggest surprise is the complexity and brutality of the guitars. Most people wouldn't expect Limbonic Art to come to mind concerning killer riffs. "The Supreme Sacrifice" showcases some of the best blackened thrash riffs of all time, combining thrash sensibilities along with chugging mayhem. The mix favors the guitars and while still a typical lo-fi black metal production, gives the six-strings plenty of breathing room and clarity. The infamous drum machine ties everything together with complexity and variation that only a programmed kit can deliver. The triggered bass drums help hold the listeners hand throughout some of the more intense moments. The toms also sound clicky as well, resulting in a very unusual drum mix especially evident during tom rolls and fills.
It has taken years of listening to Ad Noctum - Dynasty of Death to fully appreciate its value and contribution to the genre. Limbonic Art would split up after the next album, reform on 6/6/2006 but never again come close to this opus. A perfect score is out of reach due to the aforementioned weak opener and the uneven drum sound. Regardless, this is a can't miss.
Prime cuts: "As The Bell of Immolation Calls", "Dynasty of Death", "The Supreme Sacrifice"