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Not that long ago I introduced myself to a certain big USBM project, Profanatica, whose string player, John Gelso, has now teamed up with no one else other than Imperial of e.g. Krieg fame. The latter person’s work in the realm of black metal I’m a little more familiar with, so seeing these two guys together releasing an album full of filthy black metal is indeed intriguing.
The Royal Arch Blaspheme is the name of this entity that ravages on ten tracks of primitive death/black metal on their self-titled debut. Tempo kept usually at relatively moderate levels, this filthiness crawls forth not by any fast speeds but by the utter menace of the evil reeking tremolo riffs - a fine example of the relative slowness would be the album ender ”Kingdom of Perversions” that would fit well under the tag doom metal. But for the most part, The Royal Arch Blaspheme comprises quite a static blast beat throughout many songs on which the riffs appear. The guitar ideas here don’t flourish in diversity but who would have expected that anyways? Just expect a big load of Beherit influenced old school worshiping, overall.
While Profanatica’s Disgusting Blasphemies Against God had one certain feature that made it stand above the masses of similar albums (the cavernous, bass-full production), I find that The Royal Arch Blaspheme is lacking that specific feature that would make it truly memorable. Sure, Imperial’s convincing growls and shrieks are a pleasure to hear and the overall atmosphere is pretty well-crafted darkness, but on this album the production seems rather to be a minus: the programmed drums are clear to a slightly annoying extent and also otherwise the whole sound seems to in need of heaviness. That said, The Royal Arch Blaspheme does not reach as far as many others in the field, but is certainly a worthwhile effort to look into if this definite cult style of black metal appeals to you.
2.5 / 5
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The Royal Arch Blaspheme (RAB) came out of nowhere and delivered a smack in the face to Jesus in the form of their self titled album. I was surprised when I heard this and then found out who was in the band. Imperial from Krieg and John Gelso from Profanatica have concocted a brutal and for the most part solid slab of USBM.
The sound of RAB is a mix of black, death, and even doom metal. All throughout this record we can hear the influence of Beherit, early Mayhem, demo era Death, Autopsy, and the doom parts of bands like Hell Hammer and Goatlord. I know that seems like a lot to digest but the songs reflect these aforementioned bands quite well.
The album opens up with a bang in the form of Denial of the Holy Spirit. A piercing wave of feedback explodes from the speakers, and a down tuned doom riff is played while imperial”s layered vocals scream overhead and then...BAM! We dive head first into a twisted blast section that recalls Blasphemy's Gods of War album.
The sound on this album is really clear, I was expecting something a lot rawer. For a bedroom black metal release this does not sound bad at all. My only couple of complaints with the sound is that I feel the guitar should be a little louder and the drum machine should be dialed back a bit. It is so loud that it overpowers the vocals sometimes.
The fact that a drum machine is used would be enough to subtract a couple points off, but whoever programmed this machine did a great job. It sounds as if someone is behind a kit and the patterns are varied enough to keep it interesting. The programming is way better than on Profanatica's Disgusting Blasphemies Against God (see my review of that album) where you can tell it is blatantly a machine.
The guitars play basic riffs and the bass just follows along most of the time. There is nothing really innovative but then again I'm not looking for pristine musicianship when I play this album, I just want to be bludgeoned senseless! Some of the riffs do sound quite similar, and by the time Lust and Sacrilege hits you start to recognize some recycled ideas.
I love imperial's vocals here, they sound retched and full of hate. I don't recall him ever phoning in his vocal performances but here they shine really well. The vocal layering adds an intensity that is not so far removed from Glenn Benton's vocals on the Legion album. Everything is written and preformed very well.
I must admit I was expecting a mediocre record with Profanatica throwaway riffs and unused Krieg ideas. I think this album appeals to a certain crowd, but that said crowd will be treated with a pummeling, and twisted album that they will listen too for awhile. If this was a one off project I would not be disappointed honestly. Too many times we have seen projects with members from respected bands put out a great debut, and then when they try to replicate it the end product fails. I'm looking right at you War from Sweden.
Standout tracks: Denial of the Holy Spirit, Via Crucis, Dead Eucharist, Kingdom of Perversion, and Seven Devils of Ejaculation.
With already a whole host of bands in his resume (including Krieg, Judas Iscariot, Twilight), Imperial once again joins forces with another black metal force, J. Gelso from Profanatica to bring you 39 minutes of ear-raping dirty black metal. Having each of their individual bands already releasing an album this year (Krieg's The Isolationist and Profanatica's Disgusting Blasphemies Against God), this had me wondering what RAB were going to add to the whole host of black metal masterpieces already released in 2010.
Well, to put it in a single sentence, this is nothing like each of the individual releases mentioned above, there are no cold riffs and atmosphere that The Isolationist gives us, and neither is it a clone of Disgusting Blasphemies Against God, but I sure am glad chancing upon this record. What we have here is a sped up version of Profanatica, combined with Imperial's tortured, gruff vocals, though in a somewhat similar vein of Ledney's (Profanatica), but deeper, and in a way, more punishing.
The album starts off with a death/doom feel with heavy crushing and painfully slow (in a good way of course) riffs, however, do not be deceived by this as the main riff of the song kicks in. Wave after wave of blasphemous riffs are sent crushing to the listener, leaving little time to breathe (and neither would the listener want any time to breathe at all with music as evil as such).
Of course, the album is not a complete monotone or entirely a speed-fest as the duo displays their brilliance in making use of pauses to create sort of an anticipatory effect on the listener, yet jumping in when least expected, leaving the weak-hearted shitting their pants. Songs like Jahbulon gives a false sense of serenity at the beginning with soft peaceful background music before properly punishing the inattentive listener. Then again, you might have been an idiot if you hadn't expected something like this.
The album also provides an avenue where Gelso gets to display his ability to create an atmosphere with his musical ingenuity. For example, on Denial of the Holy Spirit, the riffs and the seemingly simple solo towards the end of the song lashed out by Gelso feels as if you are watching the world come to an end yet are unable to do anything about it, almost causing panic to strike in the heart. The bass also takes the role of lead instruments in some instances, for example the bass intro of Isaiah 14:12, which succeeds in providing a sinister prelude to the song proper.
Production of the album, as expected from anyone who is familiar with their (Imperial's and Gelso's) brand of black metal, is raw, yet not to the extent where all instruments are blurred out and nothing can be made out. Instead, this adds an overall nice (or should i say, dirty?) touch to the music, further adding to the evil that is already present in the music itself. I especially liked the prominent bass lines throughout the album, enhancing the entire experience and providing with an extremely rounded sound.
Whoever says that simple riffs and beats doesn't equate to good music simply has to listen to RAB's self-titled album to be shut up.
The Royal Arch Blaspheme is certainly one band to look out for, and is definitely recommended for fans of bands that play music in the veins of Profanatica.
Originally written for Heavy Metal Tribune (http://www.heavymetaltribune.com/)
Neill Jameson has been a card carrying member of the US extreme metal underground for as long (no, longer) as I've been writing about it. In fact, I believe I once interviewed him for an old black/white print 'zine I once worked on at university in the 90s. But you probably know him best by his other names: Imperial. Lord Imperial. Or N. Imperial. His first breakthrough act was Krieg (formerly Imperial), through which he has now accrued an extensive discography, including cult US faves like Destruction Ritual and The Black House. But you may also know him through other acts he's been involved with: Hidden, Judas Iscariot (live), Weltmacht, Nachtmystium, March into the Sea, or the USBM collaboration Twilight.
Some of these projects have produced some excellent material, some still do, and some I could live without and lose not a single wink of sleep, but The Royal Arch Blaspheme is perhaps the best output I've heard from this man in years. And here's the catch: he's only the vocalist. The musical backdrop is all performed by John Gelso, a name associated through the years with Profanatica and some even more obscure acts (Contravisti, Toten, and others). This is a marriage forged in hell, another of those rare acts that successfully strips away much of the needless excess from the past 20 years of extreme metal, to deliver a disconcerting, wicked experience that hammers itself past the manifold layers of skin and bone, to the soft, innocent flesh of the brain beneath.
Though the aesthetic here is clearly that of primitive black metal, one could just as easily make a death metal argument for this record. Gelso's guitars produce some of the most despotic, repugnant old school rhythms I've heard in recent memory, enriched through the morbid, crushing influence of the masters (Incantation, old Death, Autopsy, etc.) But these are not enough, and in a track like "Isaiah 14:12" you'll experience what is exceptional about this project: the atmosphere often crafted through a swelling, melodic guitar harmony in the background. Across this visceral turmoil, Imperial's vocals retch, a caustic belch of bloodcurdling snarls that enchant like the transfixed stare of the executioner behind his hood. A wide range of emotional export is hardly necessary for this album, so Jameson is the perfect pilot for this abyssal aircraft.
If The Royal Arch Blaspheme were only some weekend hangout with little to no organization, it would still be entertaining. But Gelso and Jameson have something the garage or basement black metal duo cannot emulate: the craft of song. It seems each fibrous, infernal hymn here is laden with just enough charisma and dynamic balance to maintain the listener's attention. Tracks like "Alchemist", "Dead Eucharist" and "Jahbulon" writhe with a volatile passion almost unrivaled among the lazarus hordes of old school pundits, fueled only by hell and spite and the mockery of holy foolishness. Imperial's voice is like the dirt of a grave stirring, writhing with worms and the charnel, half-empty smile of an ascending skull. Need something slower? "Kingdom of Perversions" will KILL you, as it glistens with the fresh blood of angels, their cries heard through the shrill samples that bridge the sluggish verses. Need something faster? Try on the "Seven Devils of Ejaculation".
You can't really go wrong with this record if you enjoy anything else on the entire Hell's Headbanger roster. Beyond that, you can't really go wrong with this record if you enjoy anything in the storied past of black or death metal: Bathory, Hellhammer and Mayhem in addition to the death metal bands I gave an earlier gesture. The Royal Arch Blaspheme is a celebration of this groundwork, within a dense new fold that bludgeons the ears through churning rhythms and resplendent vocal hostility. Very much worth your time to check out, whether you're a salty old dog branded many times over by the devil's lash, or a ripe young imp seeking evil.
Highlights: Come one, come all to the slaughter.