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Brilliant album deserving praise not condemnation - 93%

bord, July 23rd, 2017
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Norma Evangelium Diaboli (Digipak)

This album is one of my favourite black metal releases of 2016. It is not redefining black metal in any way but it does reinforce Antaeus’ well-earned place as one of the finest black metal bands around.

Brutal, bitter, sick, angry, furious, harsh. The music is pure fast-paced, demonically ugly, venom-spitting black metal. If you’re into melodic, atmospheric or doom-laden BM then you probably shouldn’t be listening to Antaeus in the first place. If you're new to Antaeus while you won't go wrong with this release, I'd suggest starting with CYFAWS or Blood Libels.

The drumming is the biggest blastfest of their career to date (which, from these guys, is saying something). They pound near relentlessly throughout and could legitimately be replaced with a drum machine or a piece of machinery from a construction site. Set’s buzzsaw guitars on Blood Libels have become even more rough and ugly. MkM's vocals have morphed into a sand-blasting machine that can strip paint from half a mile away. This is the music of a satanic machinery factory. Your grandma will be taking out her hearing aids and giving them a tap to see if they have suddenly developed some horrendous distorted feedback loop.

I’ll admit that, given my high expectations, I was underwhelmed on my first couple of listens. The drumming is far more basic than previous albums and sometimes I do wish that Menthor had been given more freedom to provide input. Over time, however, I have come to appreciate this album to the point that I play it just as often as their previous works. Antaeus have essentially distilled their sound on CYFAWS and Blood Libels - Set's guitars are more distorted, MkM's vocals are even harsher while the drumming is (generally) faster and more industrial. This is extreme music made by artists whose souls embody the blackness of their music.

As with their previous albums, Antaeus are pushing the limits of speed whilst still playing riffs. The limits of distortion within black metal whilst not quite crossing over into the blackened-noise territory of artists like Nekrosov.

The songs largely blend into each other sounding very similar with only small changes in speed and feel. Shadow Fires, Angels of Despair and Condemnation are slight stand outs for me.

But there is variety. For example Symmetry of Strangers starts out as a merciless fast paced blast-fest that moves into a sludgy, oppressive, slow-moving section in the middle for about a minute before moving back into the realm of pure sonic vitriol. No sooner is that over than the furious pace is stepped up right from the first moments of End of Days which turns up the speed to Lunatic. But then at the 1:50-mark it turns into an even more oppressive, slow grind than the slow section in Symmetry. This one has you stuck in a treacley vat of clotting blood for just over a minute at which point you are thrown back into the chaotic fury.

Turn the bass up and play on 11.