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Having held a bloodied, tattered flag for the old school of Swedish death metal well past its glory days and through the late '90s, Runemagick began the 21st century with a trilogy of albums that chronicled their progression into ever more doomlike waters. Resurrection in Blood, Moon of the Chaos Eclipse and this beast, Requiem of the Apocalypse, all had terrible album covers but were absolutely monstrous - not least this one, released only a few months after its predecessor, and the final album of what the band call their "middle era."
While its predecessor had shown strong hints of a gloomier, murkier direction, RotA sees Runemagick barely maintaining a death metal vibe through the eruptive double-kick led riffs that frame lengthy sections of sludgy, eloganted groove. 'Temple of Skin' is analogous to the entire album, with its middle section comprised of reverberating, tuned-down-to-Hades riffs, yet opening with explosive death metal rhythms and featuring a face-numbing, testicle-melting solo. Meanwhile 'Beyond Life' uses blaring, black metal tremolo riffs transitioning to Bloodbath-like noodling leads. 'One Road to Megiddo' and 'Funeral Caravan' exploit catchy, melodic breakdowns that would sound like At the Gates were it not for the infinitely heavier bottom end. The latter features one of the most showy and fret-punishing guitar solos in the Runemagick pantheon. Still firmly rooted in Swedish traditions, Runemagick were moving toward far grislier territory, but this album provides a snapshot of that progression.
The three band members play an equal part forging a dark and deathly sound. While Nicklas Rudolfsson breaks off one churning riff or baleful doom-like lead after another, Mojjo Moilanen and Emma Rudolfsson provide a powerful rhythm section that is the album's strongest connection to the band's former sound. The extensive use of otherworldly synths to create the mood was already becoming a part of Runemagick's fearsome apothecary; not only does the album begin with an instrumental dedicated to these effects, but some of the vicious chugging sections are overlaid with submarine-sounding keyboard patterns that increase the suffocating atmosphere. However, even at this early and formative stage in the Rudolfsson clan's Moilanen-assisted excursions into doom, tracks like 'On Chariots to Hades' create a creeping and ghostly vibe with the use of the guitar quite ably. This song uses a semi-classical, whining guitar lead most reminiscent of Depravity's classic 'Sleepy Ocean', though sounding possibly even more evil. Meanwhile the layered riffs of 'Fields of No Life' begin to mark them as an increasingly studio-based band. Everything was coming into place for the next era - or the common era, as we peons of the 21st century have called it.
The transitional nature of the album harms it somewhat; the band's most convincing death metal albums were behind them, and the following year they were to release their best album, Darkness Death Doom, as their first full foray into doom. On its own merits RotA is still an exceptional album that would maul the fuck out of most death/ doom or pure death metal released in 2002, and it makes a worthy addition to any latter-day Runemagick record collection. Since the band only send out less than a thousand of most of their albums, you won't be finding these middle-current era discs cheap (as in, for less than a tenner) so your priority is to buy the album after this and work forward to On Funeral Wings and then back to this. Then you can do what the fuck you want.