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I decided to listen to this album on my iPod as I swept the house, knowing that while I do like the album, I never really dove into it. Nocturnal Beast was amazingly evil, but this is where Lord Belial spent all the melody, malevolence, and talent in their career. The bass isn’t as fat as it would be on the next album, but it sure packs a punch and all while the leadwork is reminiscent of Iron Maiden – an unorthodox but brilliant combination when executed properly. Therefore, the overall tone (while still sinister) is more accessible to weak ears or to those who want to step into black metal territory. The production isn’t raw; in fact, it’s the complete opposite: thick, chunky, powerful, booming, and rich like Swedish milk chocolate.
Before really paying attention, all the songs sounded the same because of the same guitar rupture. Thus everything blended together smoothly and without repetitive formula. However, throughout my sweeping process from the bedrooms, to the kitchen, and down to the TV room, I could hear the distinct tempo changes riff melodies in the twin lead of the bass / guitar. One pulled off a wall of sound while the bass and guitar nailed the rhythm down like hot cakes.
Drumming was substantially limited to blast beats and the like pace keeping, but it’s organic sound kept it right where I wanted it. Another interesting aspect I notice was the high blend of solos – they mixed in perfectly and easily without any break or interruption. Most of the solos are slow, but they carry teaspoons of NWOBHM. The riffs themselves have a medieval / classical-inspired touch that tastes like rainbow sherbet ice cream with those solos. Give this plus the use of haunting (but limited) keys and acoustics, and we have black metal simply done right. Backelin sounds like a demon pissed off as hell – no gutturals or a lot of growling; just screams that aren’t in any way annoying or childish. His performance suits the music perfectly, but he isn’t the reason why this album is so mesmerizing.
Now this album has been called doomy; while I wouldn’t exactly call it that, it gets off that way for its thick, mid-paced songs. It sounds like your on your being escorted to Hell, with genocide being committed to your right and McDonald’s on your left. The NWOBHM worship, significantly present in songs like “Scythe Of Death,” “Abysmal Hate,” and “Mark Of The Beast” prevent this album from bordering snoozeville, which some people seem to think. The more elegant tracks like “Legio Inferi” and “Sons Of Belial” in return give this album more class and a style of its own.
Angelgrinder served as the build-up while Nocturnal Beast represented the aftermath of this album. Lord Belial pulled all their shots on this one and created something magnificently chilling without giving up their roots. It serves as a great gateway album for new fans and also as pretty much their best work in my eyes.
Lord Belial has changed a great deal since the much more abrasive “Unholy Crusade” and the overtly violent “Angelgrinder.” Now, the band has turned toward a doomy vibe that remains evil, yet the band has shed its extreme, death metal trappings in favor of more dismal, mid-paced atmospheres. The album has been available in Europe, but is being finally issued in the US by Candlelight Records, which is acquiring licensing for key European metal labels at a staggering rate.
This is, without a doubt, an album that American fans need to hear and at import prices these days, it’s much more likable to have domestic releases of extraordinary metal forays such as this.
There’s a lot more of a Bathory influence on the more melodic of “The Seal Of Belial” and it seems as if it’s a change for the better for this group[. Musically, things are more fluid and nothing sounds rushed. When Lord Belial take inspiration from the phase of the Bathory sound, as so many bands do, they also inject the more harmonious, latter-day Bathory sound into the vibe. But on “Mark Of The Beast,” an additional cryptic vocal element is fostered, leading to the kind of vibe that strikes the listener as original. “The Seal Of Belial” is a definite progression and even more so, an evolution for the band. This music is heavy, gritty and inspired by venomous visions, yet it walks along a different left hand path without imitation. Excellent production by Andy LaRoque captures the gruff beauty of this band’s scathing tone.
A particularly Hellish sounding eruption, "Abysmal Hate" causes massive sonic damage with a technique that fans of Dimmu Borgir will be drawn toward. An entirely different vibe rests in Chariot Of Fire, a slithering mid-tempo groover. Throughout the stylistic variations, Lord Belial keep things frostbitten and diabolical, staying true to the core of the black metal movement, but accentuating the presence with texture and an ominous yet memorable stance in ubiquity.
Lord Belial may be changing, but their underlying purpose has not. It’s quite safe to say that followers of this group will meet this offering with immense satisfaction. A brand new record, “Nocturnal Beast” is already on its way for European fans…