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Anyone who thinks black metal is nothing but static and noise would cry if they heard Varathron. The melodic structure of the band's music transcends any such nonsensical tags - this is pure atmospheric darkness set to a traditional heavy metal framework and topped off with deep, hoarse growled/whispered vocals. The riffwork is simultaneously flowing yet wickedly sharp, alternating between lurching, stabbing groove and liquid chord progressions over relentless drumming. A dark, gloomy feel permeates the entire album, accentuated by occasional subtle synth melodies and acoustic breaks.
"Tleilaxu (The Unborn Child) and the 8-minute epic "Cassiopeia's Ode" set things off to a fine start - the former being a pure statement of intent, with a main riff that will stick in your head for days. The second is somewhat slower, proceeding at the pace of a funeral march. The guitar work contains plenty of tasty accents and string-bends, offset by well-timed tempo changes. The gloomy feel never lets up, giving the album a noticable aspect of doom-metal influence amidst the overall blackness. Other highlights include the blistering "Under The Sight Of Horus", which is possibly the centrepiece of this disc. "Birthrise Of The Graven Image" is no slouch either, and provides an extra dose of aggression. Overall, there's 7 epic black metal tunes and 2 atmospheric instrumentals ("Redeunt Saturnia Regna" and "Sic transit Gloria Mundi" which provide coda's for "Birthrise..." and "Somewhere Beyond Seas".
Extra mention should be given to the lyics, which are far from being the conceived norm of "Satan, rape Jesus in the arse, bring forth legions of hell" that several bands which will remain unnamed have convinced many are the staple lyrical formula for this genre. The stories (yes, stories) told in these songs are taken from various sources of ancient mythology - Mediterranean, mostly, but also touching on Egyptian tales and apocalyptic themes. Unfortunately, the album is completely out of print as far as I know, but if you happen to see it anywhere, don't hesitate to pick it up. It's well worth the investment.