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Some switch-ups in style are generally seen as anything from acceptable to a pretty fucking excellent move, while others are considered as crushing a failure as my plan to harness the elemental power of electricity by vacuuming the contents out of the sockets in my room. This is the former: just shy of forty minutes of pulverizing but lovingly composed and precisely executed to within a tolerance of one micron, Swedish extreme metal audio porn, bitches. This is a remarkable climax to the discography of what began as a premier Swedish band of fantastic melodic black metal in the vein of Dissection, taking the more punishing elements of their sophomore The Coming of Chaos and just letting them take full rein. What results is an album so excellent in two simultaneous ways your brain will split in half trying to enjoy it on as many levels as I do. Thy Black Destiny is a relentless record meshing thunderous Swedish death metal with the remaining occult melody left over from their earlier days.
Sacramentum have no fear of genre norms or any of the restrictions black, death or whatever fuckin' metal might impose upon them, and focus instead on their own musical journey. In this case that means a buttload of militant death metal riffs and cacophonous drumming. However, the Sacramentum-stamped sense for melody and harmony remains present: this isn't a bandwagon band trying their hands at whatever they think might sell. This is a tight unit hellbent on driving home their message with whatever weapons they find to hand, and through the steady progression of their sound have finally arrived at the point of no return: a unique album as neck-snapping and armour-plated as it is arcane.
Compared to the previous two records Thy Black Destiny is slightly more trim, and it certainly feels that way too. It mostly whips by at breakneck speed, not to mention it is replayable as fuck. It is crammed with highlights, due to a structure that doesn't limit itself to constant all-out blasting, or to any manner of conventional slow-verse epic-chorus stuff that other bands might consider sufficient. 'Iron Winds' is a perfect intro for setting this scene. The droning doom-like guitars and squalling solos in the background, the marching samples... and whatever that phrase is intended to mean, iron winds (winds that could tear iron? winds that hit you like iron? a bunch of iron flying through the air?) is a perfect - if abstract - way to summon some kind of written description of this record.
The tense harmonized riffs and luscious solos don't waste any time lathering the motoring opener 'The Manifestation' with melodic goodness. What sounds like automatic weapon fire adds to the military vibe it somehow retains - as a matter of fact the overall impression is a bit like the last two records of God Dethroned, which were militant, tight black/ death metal that still had space for freakishly good guitar solos and leads. 'Shun the Light' in particular has some outrageous solos going on. while 'Demonaeon' works in more atmospheres of forlorn battlefields and abandoned dogtags with morose slower sections. When they're hitting these slow areas I can really hear how they've worked on progressing their sound; when it's high-octane riffing chaos and baleful harmonies, the Sacramentum of Far Away from the Sun can still be heard there, somewhere. But in the slower areas any suggestion of alpine slopes and Vikings frozen in ice disappears, and the thick smoke and oily metallic surfaces of an altogether different landscape come to mind. The rough, grunting bass guitar textures at work compound the more death metal -oriented approach.
I didn't even mention yet that the drummer, the man who has so capably handled every increase in intensity, so perfectly described every compositional whim Sacramentum have written, is the very same Swede behind the best death doom band of all time. Nicklas Rudolfson motherfuckers. Prior to this I'd only heard him drum in Necrocurse, which sounded pretty sweet, but in Sacramentum he is, as they do say, on some whole other shit. While handling any and all pace changes and speeds required with aplomb, Rudolfson supplies the heaviest and damn it, most brutal drum performance he has anywhere I've heard him. He keeps the droning menace of 'Spiritual Winter's break interesting pretty much on his own, for example. Not just a genius doom metal guitarist, but one of those drummers who can get you listening to him even when there's fucking good guitars going on at the same time.
My small complaints here would be that, in addition to the guitar melodies in 'Death Obsession (Black Destiny Part II)' sounding a bit trite, every now and again after the flawless first four songs, the songs will hit a slightly dry or listless riff that doesn't demand to be ingrained into the memory as do various others. Other than that, this album makes you feel like the rapture happened and you got fuckin' forgotten. Now you're stuck down here under a too-close sun with the mechs, the steampunk cultists and the beaten-up looking crazy guys in the army jackets with eye patches. Such a scorched, hopeless existence is what Sacramentum left on; a pretty big fuck-you to anyone with opinions about what changes bands should and shouldn't make to their sound for one thing. When it's done this well, it's clear that it's all about the band in question. Although it isn't as enjoyable to me as the superb Far Away from the Sun (and its preceding companion EP Finis Malorum, otherwise known as one of the less-talked about Chancellors of the Republic in Star Wars), this swansong is somehow endlessly entertaining.
A year and a half after Sacramentum's second album's release, they released their final album, Thy Black Destiny in 1999. This album had even more radical changes done to the music just as Sacramentum did with Coming Of Chaos, representing the band's quick-paced musical evolution. It's a bit difficult to call this a flawless masterpiece, but also difficult to say it's just decent. It's best to say it's very memorable and enjoyable, with very fast, crushing songs. It's not an improvement, but another step in Sacramentum's sound, this time stepping onto grounds of pure death metal.
First of all, this album is pure death metal. All black metal elements are eliminated from Sacramentum's music at this point in time. All the beautiful and somber melodies are completely gone as well. This makes Sacramentum sound extremely different already. Despite the gargantuan differences, you could still recognize the music as Sacramentum's sound. Their sound had become very distinctive with Coming Of Chaos. Even though the second album was extremely different from the first album, it proved that Sacramentum can completely change remain recognized, and here, they've done the same thing.
For Thy Black Destiny, Sacramentum decided to focus a lot more on blast-beating brutality and very death and thrash metal-oriented songwriting rather than melody and atmosphere. The riffs are much more technical, but not way too technical like a song from a band like Decapitated or the Polish band Hate. The songs remind me of those from Sodom's M-16, only they're played much faster with blast-beats added. It should be noted that this album also has its slower moments, like the slow-paced song Overlord and the last track Thy Black Destiny which ends the album in more calming riffs that are supposed to resemble a collapse and bloody aftermath of the intense, war-like atmosphere the other songs contain.
The other songs, particularly Demonaeon, The Manifestation, Rapturous Paradise, and Shun The Light are musical manifestations of war, bloody violence, and some sort of apocalyptic event. These songs are packed with chaotic riffs, blast-beats, shredding guitars, and fierce vocals. There are a couple filler tracks on this album, but the majority of the album's songs are a joy to head-bang to. This proves that Sacramentum transformed their sound in a positive way again, but like how it's already mentioned above, it's not an improvement, just something different.
Conclusion: an enjoyable and very intense album by Sacramentum, which creates a satisfying ending to their discography.
Sacramentum were a killer melodic black/thrash/death metal band from Sweden. Of their three albums, each one lent a bit more in sound to a particular subgenre. For example: the first album was the blackest, the second was the thrash-out and this one is the most deathly. To me, all three sound like the same band with the same influences but the approach is a little different each time.
For this album, melody still plays an important role as it always has but the Gothenburg-isms aren't as pronounced. Said melodies are still present but they have taken more of a back seat and bludgeoning has moved front and centre. Many will tell you this release is a pure death metal album that doesn't come close to the Sacramentum of old.
To some degree, I understand that sentiment as 'The Manifestation' and 'Rapturous Paradise' sound like classic Kreator with a hyper-active drummer. Multi-layered guitar harmonies and atmosphere are replaced with riff and tempo changes a plenty that have all the majesty of a crowbar to the face and groin simultaneously. On the other hand, if 'Spiritual Winter' and 'Death Obsession' were given the same Swano production and regular tuning (E instead of D) was used as found on the classic 'Far Away From The Sun,' would the end result be that different? Not really. Both tracks possess the same dark and ungodly feel that runs throughout said album. Less intricate and melodic? Yes. Atmosphere in tact but with bonus crowbar? Also yes. Tuning down a step and a greater use of blast beats does not mean instant Morrisound like too many critics of this album would have you believe.
On a musical level, Nicklas Rudolfsson is a drummer that understands the importance of dynamics and accents without showing off. He's no virtuoso, but he is very competent and tasteful. Bassist/Vocalist Nisse Karlen has a fine frozen rasp of a voice but has the same delivery throughout this (and every) Sacramentum album. Had they made a fourth, a little bit of deviation from the regular would've been nice. Minor gripe though as his delivery always suits. Guitars are solid, tight and dynamic. Catchy melodies, tremolo bashing-solos and blackened power chords, all varied and well played. Andy LaRocque's production is dense and heavy whilst capturing every instrument well. Vocals and solo's vocals sit perfectly in the mix and don't steal the show. Lyrics are decent to good, nothing more.
Death, Anti-Christianity, War and so forth are, predictably, the topics of choice in case you couldn’t figure that out by the song titles.
Verdict: It rules. Buy it.
Let's get this out of the way. I'm a huge Sacramentum fan. Their song structures are quite unlike any other metal band I've ever heard. They literally change riffs 5+ times a song, but it never gets dull. Also Nicklas Rudolfsson is one of my all time favorite drummers. The guy also fronts the death metal band Runemagick -- for whom he plays guitars and does vocals. This goes to show the diversity of the song writing capacity of the band as a whole. Another cool thing about this album is that Sacramentum seems to utilize guitar solos much more than in any of their previous work. While the solos are usually in the form of an outro to the songs, they will leave you stunned every time.
This is regarded as one of the lesser albums of the Sacramentum discography. I wholeheartedly disagree with that though, as there is more aggression in this album than any of their previous work. This album leans more towards death metal than black metal (something they hinted at on "The Coming of Chaos"). The vocals are however, black metal, but they carry the aggression of death metal.
A quick note, Nicklas Andersson (Lord Belial) contributes on the guitar playing on this album. As far as I know this is the only album where an outside guitar player has contributed at all. Brolycke handles the majority of the guitar playing on all of their albums and I would not be the least bit surprised if he has some sort of upper level academic experience in music theory. The ability to seamlessly integrate 3 separate riffs in one lyric is absolutely brilliant. So enough praise, onto the songs.
"Iron Winds" is indicative of what is to come. It's an intro, but it is not devoid of musical value. Very cool guitar effects emulating what going to war would sound like. This is especially fitting for the album, as the underlying theme on all of the songs is war and death. This is not the best intro, but it really sets the tone for what is to come.
"The Manifestation" is a great fucking way to start off the album. You've got to absolutely love the originality of the song writing. Sacramentum fuses two words together as one for effect (Warwind, ironwind, deathwind etc). It really gives the lyrics a sense of longevity that is certain to not wear off soon. The guitar playing is extremely tight. The drumming is also VERY death metal like throughout the whole album, and this song is no exception. Great guitar bridge at 2:25, straight back into brutality at around 2:50. As the machine guns effects explode and the guitar solo screams out, you realize that this is not normal black metal. Excellent song about war, highly reccommended.
"Shun the Light" okay I'll admit, the first dozen or so times I'd heard this song, I shrugged it off as being somewhat derivative. The short, blunt guitar riffs do not seem particularly intriguing at first. But just wait until the 1:00 mark, the chorus kicks in and the riffs mutate into straight brutality. One cool aspect of this album is that they integrate different vocals for effect. It works very well on this song and on the album as a whole. The guitar solos at 2:00 will leave your jaw dropping at their perfectly executed style. Starting out mellow, once again mutating into straight warfare. Once again, at the 3:30 mark, one of the best chorus's ever to end the song.
"Demonaeon" starts off as a straight death metal intro. It does not let down at any point. The guitar effects in the chorus are absolutely fucking awesome. The chorus itself is one of the greatest chorus's on the album. Catchy, brutal and will stay in your head for awhile. At 1:20, straight fucking brutal death metal kicks into full gear. I love how just as when the lyric "Incinerate, degenerate, death strikes like a lash. " is completed Nicklas Rudolfsson hits the high hat to accentuate the point of death striking like a lash. At just over 4:00 minutes one of the fucking sickest guitar solos you will ever hear will grace your ears, it does not last long but that does not make it any less memorable.
"Overlord" picks up directly where "Demonaeon" left off. This song is exceptionally well written and the drumming is worth mentioning as Nicklas Rudolfsson continues to rape his drum kit into submission. The chorus is somewhat mellow, but the musicianship never falters at any point in the duration of the song. At 1:57, once again beautiful guitar solos grace your ears leaving you simply awestruck at the musical proficiency of the guitar playing.
"Death Obsession (Black Destiny Part II)" reminds me somewhat of "Shun the Light" in the short, blunt strokes of the guitar. The chorus is outstanding and the guitar playing at 1:20 is certainly worth mentioning. This song lyrically sums up a lot of what Sacramentum is all about... DEATHOBSESSION!!
"Old as the stars in the sky, born out of nothingness.
Out of emptiness, my destiny is black forever Deathobsession. " Incredible lyrics certainly help the songs maintain a high level of appreciation to the listener. The incredible guitar solos in this song do not hurt either.
"Spiritual Winter" is one of my favorite songs on the album (although I honestly like them all). The low end at the end of the bass on this song is excellent. The drumming is nothing short of incredible either. Lyrically, this song dominates everything in it's path. Very cool guitar effects kick in at 1:30. Overall, a very highly memorable track which may leave your neck hurting. This is what you listen to as you march to war. The guitar playing, as usual, is phenomenal. The solo at 4:00 is of course short and sweet (as they all are), but very well executed. No criticism for this song whatsoever.
"Rapturous Paradise (Peccata Mortali)" keeps in the vein of the whole album. Ever flowing riffs galore punctuate this song. The bass playing is also very, very well executed. Nisse Karlén is one of my favorite bassists and vocalists. Guitar solos at 1:30 are guaranteed to stay in your brain. This branches off into a blunt death metal guitar riff. The mini solos in the lyrical stanzas are very awesome, as are the layered vocals.
"Weave of Illusion" is excellent. I love the fact that Sacramentum unleashes all of their aggression on this album. The guitar playing at just under 1:00 is particularly worth mentioning. The chorus is also very catchy, but yet brutal at the same time. This is excellence personified.
"Thy Black Destiny" is my least favorite track on the album (minus the intro). That is not to say that it is good, but the song seems kind of like a farewell ode. Maybe it's just me, but the church bells seem to signify the death of the band, as this was the last album they ever made. Not a bad song by any means, but it is a lot slower, with spoken vocals.
Overall, another excellent record by Sacramentum. If you like this, I highly recommend all of their full lengths ("Far Away from the Sun" & "The Coming of Chaos"). Their EP "Finis Malorum" is genius as well. One of the reasons why I love this band so much is that they evolve and change their song on every subsequent release. They also continued to get heavier and heavier up to the pinnacle of their heaviness, with "Thy Black Destiny". This is for all fans of black or death metal. Hell, this is highly recommended for all fans of metal period.