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Majestic and profound - 86%

AdNoctum, April 9th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Kvlt

When it comes to black metal, the spotlight has a hard time finding the Netherlands - instead, the BM scenes in France, Germany and, obviously, Scandinavia have done a way better job when it comes to putting themselves and the genre on the map. The Netherlands have nonetheless spawned a number of talented black metal bands, and dedicated ones too: illustrious hordes like Funeral Winds, Cirith Gorgor and Infinity have been around for decades. Asagraum was founded more recently by vocalist, guitarist and composer Obscura, who at that moment had been on the frontline for years already with bands such as Sammath, Hekel and Nargaroth. 'Potestas Magicum Diaboli' is Asagraum's first official release, and shows that this band is an entity to be reckoned with.

An instantly noticeable characteristic of 'Potestas Magicum Diaboli' is the omnipresent ritualistic atmosphere. Album opener "Transformation" relates of reaching a new level of consciousness (or dimension, if you will), and the accompanying music is full of fighting spirit but never loses its majesty - a balance Asagraum is able to keep pretty much throughout the entire album. Musically, Obscura prefers layered, often dissonant harmonies over standard power chord riffing. The cleverly constructed, sometimes slightly psychedelic sounding riffs often consist of multiple guitar parts that complement each other. To an extent this approach is similar to Deathspell Omega, Mayhem (the Blasphemer-era) or fellow Dutchies Dodecahedron. Compared to these bands, though, Asagraum has less experimental or "progressive" tendencies, and also in terms of lyrical content and visual presentation they remain relatively orthodox.

Despite the fact that all eight songs are delivered with enormous conviction, not every single one of them impresses for the full 100%. Prime examples of what Asagraum is capable of are "Daar Waar Ik Sterf" (English: "there where I die") and "Black Sun Prayer"; both pitch-black sonic mazes that suck you in immediately. Especially the manner in which the latter builds up and climaxes is absolutely spectacular. Compared to that, a song like "Gospel Of Ignition" feels rather ordinary all of a sudden, with its repetitiveness and relatively straightforward main riff. Hypnotizing for sure, but as far as this reviewer is concerned also less thrilling. Nevertheless, fact is that 'Potestas Magicum Diaboli' is one of the most profound and vital-sounding Dutch black metal albums in years. Hopefully it will get the international attention and recognition it deserves.