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Runemagick, the death collectors - 86%

sushiman, November 28th, 2009

Stockholm had pretty much taken a back seat to Gothenburg by the turn of the century, with Sweden becoming more associated with groups such as In Flames and Dark Tranquillity than Entombed and Dismember. Whatever the majority of people were listening to, it was generally not slow, gruesome death metal in the best traditions of Sweden's gloomier groups with an air of mysticism and menace borrowed from early '90s Finland. Into this climate Nicklas Rudolfsson released Resurrection in Blood, an album sounding much like what I have just described. It was forgotten about, and even among Runemagick's fanbase attention focuses on their first two albums and their later releases.

Big mistake. Resurrection in Blood charges forth as a rattling, lumbering death metal monster, bludgeoning all in its path. Although the band refer fondly to their demo years as the "ancient era" of Runemagick, and everything from Supreme Force of Eternity as the "middle era", RiB sounds satisfyingly ancient in its own right. Mojjo Moilanen is largely responsible for this, and provides drums that gallop, hiss and roll through the album's fifty minutes with a tinny, old school percussion. The pacing is kept to a slow march most of the time, often even slower than the record that would follow, Requiem of the Apocalypse. Although the feeling of doom and decay (borrowed from Finland's Adramelech, Depravity, Demilich and Convulse) hangs heavy over this album, the actual doom metal aesthetic the band would gradually adopt in the latter period of their "middle era" is only apparent in the predominance of slow, crawling passages - and the occasional use of funereal synths to accent said slow bits.

Sounding quite unlike anything that the band would release after it, RiB has a sound more in common with the edgy clatter of Bolt Thrower's early days than the rich, throaty sound Runemagick would adopt later. The production job, aided by Andy LaRoque, finds Rudolfsson's meandering, classical guitar solos weaving distantly over the rest of the music, somehow divorced from whatever else is happening at the time. The rhythm guitar of Fredrik Johnsson often has a fuzzy sound to it that purrs away in the background, complementing the arcane melodies being played by Nicklas Rudolfsson. The aforementioned guitar solos range from the doleful and depressive to the shrill and triumphant. Nicklas' voice is pure death metal, hardly discernible at this point from any number of similiar vocalists, and without the malevolent, gurgling quality that would surface later. Rudolfsson provides nothing more than ghoulish, resonant growls that threaten to suffocate the listener with their primal malice.

The military spectre of early Bolt Thrower and contemporary Unleashed leaks through in more than just the cover art and the mix. 'Lord of the Grave' heaves between stumbling slower riffs and pummeling double bass, and the mood of the album is one of war and battle. Rather than the cowled figures that gravely forged ghastly monuments of doom in darkened Oriental temples, on this album Runemagick stand in their war gear, surveying a field of hewn corpses and shattered eardrums. Y'all fucked with the wrong Swedes.

One tiny thing about the record that pisses me off is the intros: there are three of them, plus one outro. The three intros are all exactly the same: a few seconds of someone sticking their thumb on the keyboard's upper notes, set to "voice." The volume of this is so quiet I thought the CD wasn't playing, and their inclusion was utterly pointless. Since the sum of these interludes only occupies three minutes it's not a big gripe, just one of those annoying things bands do for the sake of having interludes.

Resurrection in Blood finds Runemagick playing traditional, old school death metal, with the focus purely on melody, riffs and aggression rather than an atmospheric rendering of those things (see 'Grand Sabbath Pact' or 'Memorandum Melancholia' for the essence of Runemagick's changing avatar two years later). Until Darkness Death Doom, each album would find itself referencing both death and doom metal, but Resurrection in Blood stands at the other side of this progression as one of the Runemagick landmarks, providing a blistering finale to their death metal stage.