without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
The year is 2005. Frog has been awkwardly making his way up the high school popularity ladder, and has found himself a pretty cool girlfriend. He’s yet to make varsity (“I’ll get ‘em one day coach!”) but he’s formed a decent metal band that’s been playing regularly at a few local shows. It’s this same year that he’s been writing regularly for the Metal-Observer as a fresh-faced young reviewer with a penchant for all things black and metally, but still claimed that Emperor was about as raw a band as he could get into. So, lo and behold the surprise upon his face when he received a promo copy of Sargeist’s Disciple of the Heinous Path in the mail.
It was at this very moment that a profound shift in perspective began for Frog. As he unraveled the parcel, revealing the unbearably grim artwork and blasphemous song titles, he was immediately taken aback.
“What devilry is this?” he asked incredulously, “who would make openly satanic music, and moreover, put such an ugly man on the cover, adorned in a thorny crown – besmirching the grandiose image of black metal?”
Indeed, Sargeist was his first taste of true Finnish black metal – he had heard of bands like Beherit and Archgoat and Horna, but he had never listened – as he preferred the high-mindedness of Burzum, Emperor, Anorexia Nervosa, and similar sweeping epic song weavers. Never before had such a filthy band made its appearance at his doorstep before. He was genuinely frightened by the aesthetic, but nevertheless drawn into the grim gaze of Shatraug and company.
The production was a tinny, buzzing, meandering, plodding behemoth – terrible in its hollow nature, and treble. The entirety of the album was wrapped in a cold graven atmosphere, hive-like in its buzzing assault, and echoing and distant. This was the first of the “black metal” production our denizen of the lilies had heard, and he was thrown off. Why would anyone prefer to have such a bad production? Why would a band willfully choose to forgo the studio for a basement? Surely this must be a gimmick.
But, as soon as the opening riff of “Remains of an Unholy Past” began all was forgotten. The criticisms of the sound were immediately banished into the bastard night. There was an undeniable beauty in this filthy form, an order beneath its chaotic and thorny exterior. Sweeping majesty was woven seamlessly with the plodding doom-y riffs and rock’n’roll momentum. It was eight minutes of pure, unadulterated riffing – absolutely immense and ambitious in its idea, and perfection in its execution. From the tempo changes, to the guitar harmonies, there was not a note out of place – everything had its purpose, and a purpose was for everything,
The album continued in a drunken stagger, with the serpentine guitars intertwining over varied drum patterns and an absolutely harrowing vocal delivery. Indeed, the guitars ceased to be merely instruments, but vessels for worship of the Dark Lord – their strings becoming more than bits of copper, nickel and steel – turning into poison-laced barbed wire, capable of cutting swaths of aural fore into the air. Each riff that emanated from the disc became a venomous ichor seeping into the fragile flesh of Frog, becoming a terrible and moving memory almost instantly.
The rhythm section, while buried in the mix, was nevertheless a force of nature in its own right – surfacing like a dreaded leviathan from underneath the rolling waves of the tremolo tides – carefully balancing out each composition with a well-timed tempo change, easily shifting each song into an organic monstrosity, fearsome in its symmetry and structure. Each one of the horrid tracks had its own identity, and could stand easily alongside the rest, forming the completed beast of black metal worship.
The vocal delivery was distant, raspy, golemesque and grotesque; a true example of the soul-searing power of an excellent delivery, absolutely filthy and drenched with unholy words. It was a sermon for the mad, the Lovecraftian, a canticle sung by poets reserved for Dante’s inner circles.
Born into blasphemy indeed, Sargeist made black metal seem like a lifestyle, effortlessly wearing its influences on its sleeves, from the majestic sweeping melodies of Norway to the heavy rushing riffs of England, and covering them in the thick smog of Finnish black metal. Indeed, the composition lends itself well to the long song lengths, each one weaving unhallowed tapestries, telling tales of the macabre, the damned and the lost. Each song was unique in melody, structure and delivery, and somehow still cohesive and traditional. Yet, within it all, a sense of pride existed. Sargeist wore its blasphemy like a badge, touting well of its heretic iron will. The clichés of the genre are embraced, but never sounded like old trenched grounds, but as a glorious warmarch, well-honed and trained to be a visceral musical force.
Indeed, 2005 was a transformative year for Frog. It was the year where he first found absolute transcendence in the grime of black metal. When he abandoned the cleanliness of symphonic black metal, and looked further into the abysmal hordes of underground satanic music. It was the year of no return, and Sargeist opened the gates slowly and deliberately, showing him just enough to crave more blackened filth – to forge his own path musically, realize that excellent songwriting can overcome any obstacles of production. Sargeist was, in a way, the catalyst for understanding black metal as it truly is; a frightening, harrowing, mind-opening experience. It was the beginning of a discipleship that would transform him as a musical listener – the embrace of the immensity of metal, and what truly wondrous things one could find when one stripped away all pretentions and looked solely at the passion and devotion of those creating it.
Disciple of the Heinous Path is the second full-length from Sargeist. Written in 2001, at the same time as the material on Satanic Black Devotion, this maintains the same atmosphere created on their first album. It would seem that, along with other Finnish bands like Clandestine Blaze, Sargeist is keeping more true to the old Norwegian sound than the current output from that country. The feeling from Darkthrone's Under A Funeral Moon and Transilvanian Hunger is still present, much like on their debut L.P.
The album begins with "Black Treasures of Melancholy". The song starts with a fairly fast pace, featuring mournful and introspective tremolo-picked harmonies. Torog's vocals are much the same as on the previous album, though maybe slightly less reverb. There is more of a gargled quality to them, rather than screaming. Shatraug's trademark songwriting is present, and this could not be mistaken for another band.
"Remains of an Unholy Past" begins with a slightly faster tempo than the previous song, and the tremolo melodies are dark and haunting. These depressive harmonies will take root in the murky recesses of your mind and obsess you. Lyrically, this is definitely a tribute to bands such as Mayhem and Darkthrone. After a few minutes, the pace changes, in sort of an unpleasant way. The galloping riffs aren't so bad, yet the one in between them is entirely pointless and the song is sort of derailed. A couple minutes later, the main theme returns and the cold and hopeless feeling returns.
The next song is "Cursed Blaze of Rituals". This is much slower than the previous two, and imbues the listener with a sense of misery. The open-arpeggio riffs are reminiscent of Burzum. The vocals on this one are very obscure. This possesses the morbid atmosphere of cold graveyards. Halfway through, the song speeds up to kind of a gallop. This doesn't last too long, as the song returns the the previous riff.
The title track is another mid-paced affair, beginning with a very memorable and miserable open-arpeggio riff. The feeling of despair is thick in the dark fog that surrounds you. A few minutes into the song, the riffs change, building sort of an epic feeling before the song speeds up. At no point does the atmosphere if the song get lost, through any of these changes. Everything flows together well.
The cold and grim feeling continues on "Heretic Iron Will". Your feeble spirit is trapped within a swirling black cloud of utter torment. The slow riffs transition to faster ones, alternating back and forth with a catchier riff, which is typical of Shautraug's style. This seems to be pretty standard for Finnish bands, in general. Keeping within the established framework of early 90s Norwegian Black Metal, Sargeist manages to make things interesting, as each song is easily identifiable.
"Echoes From a Morbid Night" is the final song of the album, beginning with fast tremolo riffs and blasting drums. The song alternates between faster and slower riffs, always keeping an epic feeling. There is truly a sense of finality to these harmonies, and it would serve well as the soundtrack for one who is left to lay on the freezing ground, deep in the forest, bleeding in the moonlight.
Other than one odd riff that seemed out of place, there is nothing to complain about, regarding this album. If you appreciated Satanic Black Devotion, this should be no different. The only exception may be that these songs are more mid-paced. If you are looking for a morbid and melancholic atmosphere, then you should get this.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com (Mar. 2009)
Sargeist are one of those bands you know what to expect when it comes to black metal. You know how they are going to sound with members from both Horna and Behexen, and right there is where it leaves me a bit uneasy. Reason is because I love both of those bands. I think both bands are excellent, but when you get members from both bands together in some ‘super group’ it has the disadvantage of sounding like a carbon copy of both said acts. But with "Disciples of the Henious Path", the album is thrown at you like a curve ball and because it’s so short but you have to keep your eye on because it doesn't sound like any other Sargeist release, which is good because you want your main full length LP's to have their own identity. Leave the repetition and monotony to the Best Of/Compilations and rehearsals if you are going to play black metal.
Production is actually more clearer than on "Satanic Black Devotion" which is odd because it makes this LP sound like their debut and "Satanic Black Devotion" sound like a demo. It definitely sounds a lot more clearer and you can hear the instruments better, mainly the drums and guitars. It’s not pure gold, but it’s Finnish black metal so you’re going to get a pretty raw sound. Where it seems like "Satanic Black Devotion" was recorded in a cave, "Disciples of a Henious Path" sound more icy black cold sending shivers of pure terror down the listener's spine.
With only 6 songs it seems like a complete teaser. The first track “Black Treasures Of Melancholy” is arguably the best song on here and probably the most melodic “Disciples of the Heinous Path” has to offer. Remains of an Unholy Past” is a song that I know that guitarist and main man Shatraug has already written for some Horna EP somewhere. “Cursed Blaze Of Rituals” slows things down to a blackened doom metal crawl where the title track starts at the same slow-like pace but then picks up to a more mid-tempo and then goes back into crashing cymbals and blast beats. “Heretic Iron Will” is the same as “Cursed Blaze of Rituals” where “Echoes from a Morbid Night” starts off like “Remains” but has some nice breakdowns before the chorus, but still keeps that ugly Finnish black metal sound persistent.
In short, if you like Horna or Behexen for the most part, you’ll enjoy this. Even though it may seem like leftovers from both said bands, it IS better produced than their first LP.
Sargeist returns with an all-new entry into the black metal genre. They take their sound and refine it into an unrelenting machine of darkness. They keep all of their bass-lines that they’re known for and amplify them into some of the best I’ve heard in a long time. The guitar riffs are second to none. You seriously get the idea that Shatraug, Hoath Torog and Horns spent a lot of time sifting through different sounds and styles to try and find the best possible sound for this release. The drums, although sometimes a little too repetitive, sound top notch most of the time. The band blends all these together to make some of the most melodic, dark and cold parts, to the most raw, brutal and intense parts. The only complaint that I have about this album is that with all the great music that you’re bombarded with it doesn’t last that long at only thirty-eight minutes long, you’re almost left begging for more.
All together this release by the Finnish black metal supergroup is one of the best albums of the year. The Moribund Cult has another fan favorite with this cd.
Black Treasures of Melancholy-8.5/10
Remains of an Unholy Past-9.5/10
Cursed Blaze of Rituals-8/10
Disciple of the Heinous Path-9/10
Heretic Iron Will-9.5/10
Echoes From a Morbid Night-9/10