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Two years after the debut self-titled full-length that came from out of nowhere, the Royal Arch Blaspheme duet (now with the help from Profanatica session members –although B. Jones has a certain songwriting contribution) come back to bury more nails into weak Christian limbs. John Gelso’s guitar is the mastermind here with a style definitely close to what he does in Profanatica, although with some hidden leads behind the insect-like sonic wall the riffs built, in order to intensify the morbid atmosphere that lingers around these places.
However, even if we, the deranged souls, listen to such sounds in a euphoria state, during the first three tracks we’re on the verge of saying “yes, great, but on other hand it’s the same as before”. And at that point exactly, the Royal Arch Blaspheme throw to our faces a suberb treble riff that closes “Ashes Of The Holy Ghost” in grandeur. From now on Norwegian sounds of the early 90s come to accompany the everpresent primordial US bestial black/death in a mixture comparable –in general terms- to what was suggested by Demoncy in “Faustian Dawn” demo –also, the small lead part in the of “Resurrection In Depravity” is probably the best Gorgoroth tribute I’ve heard lately. However, the barbaric blasphemy is still the key player here, for example in the fantastic, murky old-school death metal track “Profane Rite”.
The rhythm section proves solid and devoted to the teachings of the late 80w (= beat the drums mercilessly, as nails to coffin that contain an undead man), but the one that makes his own grand performance here is –once again- the mighty Imperial in vocal duties and, of course, lyrics which for what they have to say, are some levels above the random satanic verses that demand Christian blood and decapitations. I don’t if we could call him “poor blackmetaller’s Wrest (given the fact that Leviathan have become something like the stars of urban USBM, whereas Krieg only interest a small group of fans) but in any case his pure, cold-hearted misanthropy, present even in his photos, is at least scary.
By closing with a track (“Broken Word Of God”) which could be named as “magnum opus”), profanity no. “II” from the Royal Arch Blaspheme calls us to a never-ending battle against the Christianity plague. I’m more than confident, that, were they living in rotten Greece of today, the first wood they would burn (instead of the expensive petroleum) in order to heat their houses, would be crosses stolen from the thousands of churches that have drowned this place. They show us the way, let’s just step into it!
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The sheer putrefaction of the first Royal Arch Blaspheme record in 2010 took me completely by surprise, and it was surely one of the better albums that year in terms of a raw black/death hybrid style that shook you straight back to the roots while still seeming strangely 'forward' in its execution. A welcome, primitive paradigm shift in the tides of sacrilege that so corrode the majority of arteries in this field. If the followup suffers from one single setback, is that it settles for much the same formula as the debut. In fact, with minor differences in production, one could probably swap a number of the cuts between the albums and not notice any measurable distinction in their structure.
This is a good and bad thing, dependent upon the listener's expectations. If you were desiring them to one up themselves and produce something filthier, more repugnant, then the cup is more than half empty with II. I'm a little surprised, considering the sinister evolution through the members' respective careers, that they would rest on their laurels here, as rotten and corrupted as those laurels were. On the other hand, if you were immensely satisfied by the eponymous debut, then you're getting more of what you loved, and after a few spins I feel myself falling very much in this category. For that central, insidious repulsion still remains at the heart of the Royal Arch Blaspheme sound: many bands TRY to sound vile and malevolent, but to the New Jersey heretics, it comes all too fucking natural, like that old monstrous, unclean, pest-ridden, shut-in reprobate that darkens your entire neighborhood with his decaying property and overgrown lawn until that one fateful day the paramedics show up and lighten you of the burden.
II is just like that man, if he strolled up to you on the street and started beating on you with a bible covered in his own defecation. Blasphemous, burrowing bass lines soaked in distortion created a tangible wind tunnel of crud over which sits the neanderthal tremolo picking drawn straight from the death metal of antiquity, while the rasp of N. Imperial hails more from a malicious black metal spectrum. The album plays out like a hybrid of old Autopsy, Master and Gelso's other band, Profanatica, its crashing undercurrent of percussion possessed of no further ambition than to drive the riffs into, and then unravel, your intestines. Some might accuse the band of a degree of monotony, but quite a lot of the songs here pursue mildly different aesthetics and atmospheres that churn along to various degrees of success, my favorites being "Five Sacred Wounds" with its writhing coils of agony, "Vama-Marga" and "Psalm 39" with their textured walls of somber mood, and the closer "Broken Word of God" with its overbearing discord and thundering drama.
In the end, does this record stack up to its predecessor? Not precisely, because it seems marginally less volatile, its rabid frothing slightly more controlled, and it lacks that initial sense of shock and awe. That said, they're on an aesthetically level plane which creates a direct continuity between the pair. II is slightly sadder sounding than the debut, even tough the riffs are cast over the same pumping rhythm section, but I still would not want to run into this in some dark alley without mace or at least brass knuckles at my disposal. Like the debut, I recommend you crank this fuck as high as you can get away with. Despite the ensuing threats of eviction, I found that the music functions best at a rousing, voluminous swell that shakes your neighbors to death. You might not live in an apartment, though, in which case you should experience it so loudly that deafened angels start raining on the rooftops.