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Many of my Finn acquaintances tend to hype Sacrilegious Impalement a lot, much thanks to the band’s major debut Cultus Nex released a couple of years ago. But I was never truly impressed as the evident Watain worship, combined to a soulless Necromorbus studio sound, lacked all necessary power and feeling of danger. Now the band is back with II - Exalted Spectres for which I had higher hopes, but I’m getting similar vibes as I got with Cultus Nex. There’s the discordance, the evil and profoundly Satanic atmosphere, and at times the faster bursts of enraged violence, but when it is all executed so carefully in a professional production, where does reside all sense of truthful hazard and unpredictability?
Don’t get me totally wrong: at what the band does on Exalted Spectres, it does it with skill. Not every band out there is capable of creating something as massive as this album, and not everyone can pull out vocals like Hellwind Inferion in his possessed, mid-range screams, most perfectly delivered on ”Aletheia” which is sung in native tongue, making it sound more authentic and emotional than e.g. the common ’six six six’ proclamations in English. The twirling tremolo melodies are a pleasure to hear as well but unfortunately they provide nothing out of the ordinary and, honestly speaking, almost none of the melodies on Exalted Spectres could be said to be really memorable afterwards. It’s all enjoyable during the course of listening, yet not sticking to head afterwards, no matter how many spins I give the album.
The mediocrity is probably at its worst on a track like ”Omnipotens Aeterne” which almost practically repeats the previous songs, but there are also highlights worth mentioning: ”Woods in a Solitary Soul” is one personal favourite of mine, almost three of its five minutes being distortionless, lurking menace with guitars and whispered vocals. Then there’s ”Grand Funeral Convoy” which is a very fitting bookend song, ending the album with the record’s best song progressions, culminating into some sweet lead melody. But what comes to the more common pieces of Watain esque black metal, à la ”Blessed to Resist” or ”Wolves of the Black Moon”, I can’t say they really move me in a direction or another.
If you were one of those who found Cultus Nex good, then there’s of course no need to hesitate at all at checking out Exalted Spextres. I am willing to bet that those will love this one as well, as even I am able to hear that at least they haven’t gotten worse at all. Exalted Spectres is an album I can always listen to and enjoy it to a certain extent, but does it comprise heart-wrenching, goosebumps inducing material? No, none that I am aware of so far, though I’ve tried. Decent black metal combining the aggression of more traditional bands with the ominous atmosphere of more modern bands. That is what I hear Exalted Spectres to be to the bone.
2.5 / 5
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If you missed the great Sacrilegious Impalement’s debut album, I really advise you to fill as soon as possible this gap, and it’s even better if listened to alongside the brand new full length called "Exalted Spectres".
A sonically long martyrdom of about 40 minutes split into 9 tracks alternating fast, nasty, and sharp-as-splinters songs, always very solid and evil, but also with an evident touch of madness that makes this band resemble nothing less than the great band Funeral Mist without disdaining disease and disharmony typical of Ondskapt of "Dodens Evangelium".
The main killer ingredient, in this case, is the always inspired Von Bastard’s riffing, always violent and thought out, rarely melodic, and often with a rather various and personal style that alternates frontal and aggressive outbursts to more quiet moments emerging often like in the beautiful "Woods in a Solitary Soul". It strike its target because it sounds extremely distressing, yet tumultuous.
The band’s best effort on this album is shown in the great "Absolute Abyss (Enter Godhood)" and "Ominpotens Aeterne" where the first song has a majestic main riff and pretty melody, but nonetheless is desperate despite the song being supported by a powerful mid-tempo, meanwhile the second is a nasty and closed punch in the eye, engaging and perhaps the most similar to the aforementioned Funeral Mist.
This is a record that even within the genre is extremely varied, and that, alongside other bands that I recently reviewed (such as Grabak), manages to combine excellent fury, rare melody, and lead guitar in the black metal frame, thus acquiring a slight sense of "Swedish Dark Funeral’ s style," only that SI’s and Grabak’s songwriting provides more variety, technique, and it’s way less obvious than the last of Dark Funeral’s full lengths (sorry fans).
What can I say, this record is the absolute slaughter to be heard and purchased at face value, a wonderful second album to be applauded.
This review has been published on Metal of Death webzine.
Does anyone remember when black metal was a monster? I mean, a REAL monster. Anti-social, anti-religious, just anti-everything. I’m not saying black metal isn’t dangerous anymore, but as well know, there was a time when spiky, corpse-painted demons stormed from Nordic woodlands and scared the ever-loving shit out of unsuspecting metal fiends the world over. There are a few bands who are still frightening, but as a whole, that evil spirit is still rather dormant, possibly maddened by years of imprisonment due to lack of ability on some musicians’ part.
That being said, let’s see if this Sacrilegious Impalement act has what it takes to bring some of that wickedness back…
First, I guess I’ll go with the positive aspects…the production is very clean for a black metal album, which actually helps increase the brutal aspects the album presents. Such clarity is important, if a bit foreign in the BM spectrum, and I’d actually prefer a cleanly-made album versus the tape-deck-borne dreck of other acts. The group’s performance on "Exalted Spectres" is also rather well-done, evoking a dark and violent feel that may be present in other modern black metal discs but just isn’t very well done. That helps drudge the material along, and said material has some decent riffs and leads utilizing the minor-chord devilry necessary to conjure up spell-binding odes of witchcraft and Satanic impurity that’ve been the lyrical way of things since the smoke alarms in Fantoft all went off. It helps me remember back when I first laid eyes and ears upon the likes of Emperor, Dark Funeral, and the like, and being pretty freaked out that such brutality existed in the music world. A nice trip down memory lane, it was, and, unfortunately, it made me long for those bands and albums versus this one.
Which brings us to the negative aspects…while the music is decently composed and performed with a bit of heart involved, it’s not really anything that just begs for your attention. I did enjoy it, but there was something about it that just seemed lacking in the end, like a necessary piece of the puzzle preventing it from being a complete picture. The repetitive nature of the arrangements don’t really help either; it doesn’t do the riffs justice to be repeated time and again to the point where a 3-4 minute song can be written in just two or three riffs. It just causes the listener to lose interest until something different comes along like, maybe, the next song. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. You get the picture. Also, and this might just be an unfair assessment, the performance is a little too precise; the beauty of early black metal was the caution-thrown-to-the-wind performance, the wild, bestial appeal of a group of pissed off folks letting their rages out with guitars and drums, and if the whole package is nitpicked to a fault on account of a perfect performance, some of that violence is taken away no matter how wicked and inky black your riffs are. However, like I’d said, I might just being unfair, as plentiful amounts of material heard in the likes of “Enter Godhood”, “The Woods in a Solitary Soul” and “At the Altar Afore Eternity” are still kinda good in their own right.
So in the end, "Exalted Spectres" doesn’t rewrite the book on black metal, but still has the capacity to be a solid album and something the corpse-painters out there may still enjoy. There’s a chance a part of me may still wish to see what these guys have to offer, but I’m afraid it probably won’t come to pass as often as I’d think it would.
Back for seconds after their solid if unremarkable Cultus Nex, Finns Sacrilegious Impalement represent the widespread devotion to the traditional black metal aesthetic just as well as any hopefuls out there in the deep underground. Drawn from equal parts influence of all of the major Scandinavian scenes (you'll hear some Swedish and Norse appeal in addition to the Finnish strains of a Barathrum or Horna), they're also well enough versed in variation that they don't bore the listener to tears. Proficient musicianship, a strong presence in front man Hellwind Inferion's dominant, hoarse delivery, lyrics of sadness, sacrilege and isolation, and a brazen production which takes the listener head on through its trials and torments.
So why doesn't II - Exalted Spectres bowl me over? This is simply just another of those cases of having been done before, in particular the band's faster fare ("Blessed to Resist", "Wolves of the Black Moon"), which I am hard pressed to distinguish from hundreds of other bands along the same general lines. Now, that's both a strength AND a weakness. The Finns do not claim to be reinventing the wheel, simply driving it into the cracked, burning pavement of the Abyss until it is destroyed. You know what you're getting intro (a song unto itself) simmers into existence at a mid paced gait, but once "Blessed to Resist" hammers forth, the album seems to immediately elevate in derivation, rapid and rushed, without any inherent intrigue. To be fair to the band, they do mix things up deeper into the track list. "Aletheia" is a tranquil menace delivered through sequences of pensive, clean guitars, and "Grand Funeral Convoy" also takes its time with the listener rather than blasting forth towards monotony.
Even these diversions, however, do not necessarily grab the attention front and center. Exalted Spectres is passable background noise, competent enough that I'd never write Sacrilegious Impalement off entirely, but the band's production, tone and aggression easily trump their ability at songwriting. Most of the individual riffs are drawn from the well of familiarity, and thus the layered, punishing mood of the album only gets them so far. In the end, I feel like I took away even less than I did from Cultus Nex. That wasn't a great disc itself, but the writing was slightly stronger. If you enjoy your black metal with raw but efficient studio values and a firm grasp on dynamic contrasts, in the vein of say, De Mysteriis dom Sathanas, then give this a try, but this sophomore is not about to turn many heads or horns in the band's direction.