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Filth without frills - 81%

Felix 1666, November 5th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2000, CD, Spinefarm Records

It was not easy to get a physical copy of "Okkult", at least for people like me who are not able to storm Fort Knox in order to get its gold reserves. And I am sorry, but I deny to pay astronomical prices for an album. Anyway, "Okkult" had a certain fascination for me and so I did not rest until I was successful. Was it worthwhile? I think so.

Those of you who have currently listened to Barathrum's comeback "Fanatiko" will not find many parallels between this hellish nightmare and the very controlled approach of the here reviewed album. "Okkult" is neither extrem nor ugly, it offers mid-paced, quite melodic songs that do not show many typical features of the black genre. The longplayer cannot be described as furious, brutal or icy, but it is based on a subliminal malignancy. Due to the relatively lenient degree of aggression and the active support of the keyboard, Barathrum almost sound like Cradle of Filth minus the complex song structures of the British circus. The Finnish group prefers simple patterns that make it easy for likewise simple minds like me to get access to the album in a matter of minutes. By the way, their clearly structured and unpretentious songs provide evidence that the band members are not interested in narcissism. They don't want to be the most radical or most "dangerous" guys. Their compositions do not break new records in terms of violence, but the musicians do not care about their normalcy. A likeable attitude, which is also reflected by the artwork. There is nothing shocking or brutal, no priest is forced to play the cocksucker for Satan or something like that. Nevertheless, this picture indicates the genre very precisely.

I admit that I am not very tolerant. But I understand everybody who says that this output is not very exciting or even boring. I cannot deny that tempo changes, unexpected breaks or any other form of surprising components do not show up. The material of "Okkult" is definitely not spectacular. It is a polarizing album. Either one finds a black essence in it or one is at risk to waste precious lifetime. My decision is clear, "Okkult" emanates a devilish flair. The almost primitive riffing and the eldritch nagging of the lead vocalist constitute the metallic pillars, while the keyboard adds majestic feelings or finely woven melodies (for example at the beginning of "I Am Very Possessed"). Moreover, the keyboard pulls the listener in the songs from time to time. "Bride of Lucifer", one of the highlights, ilustrates that this often scorned instrument can add value to a metal album. Both its very melancholic, slow-paced first part and the relatively dense second half profit from the integration of the keyboard. Maybe the well-balanced, relatively airy production is helpful in this context, because the guitars leave room for the further instruments. They are neither dominant nor extremely low-tuned. But despite the pretty light mix, the songs reveal a certain depth. "Land of Tears" with its eerie bass intermezzo, for instance, underlines the wistful attitude of the entire material very well.

But I am not sure whether it makes sense to pick out individual tracks, because the album shines with its holistic homogeneity. The inconspicuous intro stands in the shadow of the regular tracks, but this well known symptom does not affect the pretty good overall picture. Having said that, let me end with an additional hint concerning the intro. Its title, "Magic in Atmosphere", is a very fitting motto for the following 35 minutes. "Okkult" possesses a certain magic, at least in my humble opinion. Nevertheless, do not pay any price for this work.

Entertaining Satan’s Horde in a More Uplifting Way - 91%

bayern, June 15th, 2017

My “love affair” with Barathrum has been quite a fluctuating one; I found the debut a pile of sloppily assembled noise which I immediately dismissed; then this piece of creepy macabre minimalistic “beauty” called “Eerie” appeared which hooked me instantly, and still remains my favourite from their discography… Then “Infernal” came out which didn’t strike me that hard after its grand predecessor, being again on the not very dexterously produced, abrasively executed side of the spectre. But then the band hit their stride with a string of four fairly strong efforts all the way to the scary blasting “beast” “Anno Aspera…”.

The album reviewed here takes the middle ground in the guys’ discography and as such tries to combine the more primal sound from the beginning, to a lesser extent, with the more accessible, more optimistic approach from the surrounding it material. It wins on all counts although the hard-core black metal fanbase mustn’t have been quite happy with this mellower direction. So the darkness lands with “The Darkness Has Landed”, a direct no-gimmicks opener with jarring thrashy guitars and imposing epic build-ups the latter helped by the unobtrusive keyboard tunes. “Bride of Lucifer” is the characteristic for the band black/doomster with sinister heavy riffage marching in a patient, remorseless manner with eerie melodies provided to enhance the deep atmosphere. “Blood Spiller” is a nearly mainstream piece with the friendlier rhythms and the galloping escapades which put it in the vicinity of the 90’s German power/speed metal movement even; except for Demonos Sova’s unholy, apocalyptic vocals there’s not much to associate this cut with the band’s earlier repertoire. “Halfheart” moves back to the fields of doom, but this time the delivery is mellower and “half-hearted” with soulful guitars and catchier rhythms this song sounding like the moodier “sibling”” of the preceding one.

“I am Very Possessed” notches up the drama with a more prominent participation of the keyboards, and the speedier decisions make it a more picturesque representative of the guys’ newly acquired softer aesthetics with an overt operatic vibe ala Therion and Hollenthon; memorable, catchy stuff which sticks in the mind regardless of its not very closely related to black metal nature. “Land of Tears” recalls mid-period Bathory with the epic/pagan flavour exuded and the officiant doomy passages; this is by no means Blackmetalland anymore, and the band have no intentions on pretending that this is the case although to these ears they’ve never been a squarely full-fledged black metal outfit music-wise. “Whores of Hades” continues with the doomy infatuations and the increased presence of the melody coming a bit sorrowful and melancholic, and “Devilish Sign” is a marginally more intimidating piece with pounding drums and stomping riffage, Sova only sparingly adding a few isolated growls wary of breaking the horror instilled. “Fatal Bite” livens up as the final touch with more dynamic configurations and interesting melodic nuances which become more playful and infectious in the second half.

Although the shift towards less aggressive ways of expression have started earlier, on “Legions of Perkele” to be precise, it reaches its culmination on this opus and some may say that the band have never sounded as commercially acceptable and friendly as here… which is probably true as they obviously didn’t want to associate themselves with the black metal circles so narrowly, at least at that stage. It was also the time when Satyricon released “Rebel Extravaganza”, and black metal began to move away from the scholastic dogmas that were imprisoning it earlier. Again, black metal is a loose term when describing Barathrum’s sound as it has a lot in common with the purer doom metal ways of execution, too, and we can safely put them on the pioneering position when it comes to the doom/black metal hybridization alongside the Swedes Ancient Wisdom. The catchier heavy/power metal elements inserted can be debatable as they simply dissipate the dark oppressing motifs with which the band have become synonymous, and it was probably good that the following “Venomous” tried to shake them off.

The 3-year gap that followed may have been an indication for another change of style as the band returned to their more brutal ways on “Anno Aspera…” not willing to lose their position as one of the prime evil music purveyors on Finnish soil next to Impaled Nazarene and Horna. With these eight instalments completing a somewhat conceptual design (the spelling out of “Heil Sova” with the first letter of each album-title) the Demons took a really lengthy break before re-emerging with “Fanatiko” a few months prior, a really good effort that brought back all the previous ingredients, including something from this “okkult” delight here, mixed into one captivating melting pot. A start of a new devilish concept? Why not; Sova and his satanic gang don’t seem to have said their final word yet…

VI: A mix of sweet and sour - 58%

Byrgan, March 10th, 2010

Barathrum have a few different facial expressions here: sometimes a grimace, sometimes an evil smile, sometimes a little more complex, and at other times more plain than you want your girlfriend to look like. Though not all of us are as picky.

'Okkult,' like their prior album, includes that catchy gesture I can imagine they want their newer fans at this point to be able to translate and adopt as their own. It's a middle finger to those wishful thinking folks who wanted them to get more disgusting and experiment some more. And a thumbs up to someone who wants an entry level to black metal or even extreme metal, and someone who doesn't mind a little hook to their bait and who doesn't mind having a little fun while doing so.

Right from the get-go, the second song ('The Darkness Has Landed') is unbearably upbeat. I-wish-this-would-end-before-it-began, kind of upbeat. If it wasn't for the distorted vocals reminding me I'm listening to extreme metal, I would have said a phrase along the lines of "happy-go-lucky." It unfortunately crossed a few picket fences in the process of doing whatever it is the band wanted to achieve with that number. And where I'm standing on the opposition, we are angry, confused and ready for defence.

I'll give them the doubt to the benefit: Barathrum might of just opened on the wrong track. The third song ('Bride of Lucifer') introduces a steady keyboard chorus in the background as the rest of the music moves forward with a dreary pacing. The band didn't forget its slow-paced roots and also simplicity to keep the atmosphere at bay without distracting. The fifth ('Halfheart') begins with a similar formula, with the guitars being strummed slowly and the vocals taking precedence, but it switches subtly to lightly played palm mutes and a mid-way turn to the catchy worst. Coming at number 10, 'Fatal Bite' is a neck injury that proved not so deadly with a grossly poppy opening guitar line that should have been retracted, deleted or obliterated from where it came. 'The light, it burns, the light!' The sixth track questionably titled, 'I Am Very Possessed,' on the other hand sounds strangely King Diamond-like with those spooky Victorian era keyboards raging over the music in bombastic projection, and the guitars actually exposing the lower half of its neck other than the top string in an intricate fashion even for Barathrum. It is "cheesy," but likeable in small doses.

The seventh song ('Land of Tears') has a very basic though flowing momentum. Barathrum produces another slower paced wonder that delivers consistently, even with some of the most simplistically strummed riffs on the recording. The song only has a slight amount of shifts during its span, with bass guitar playing during a short break and an ending with some mystical sounding keyboards going solo. The eighth ('Whores of Hades') is just as repetitious at times, switching between a few different pieces played in alternates. A guitar opens up with a series of single notes and then a break comes again with simplistic strums and a steady medium pace from the drummer. On the ninth ('Devilish Sign') the drummer uses something like a marching beat mixed with bass pedal gallops, and the guitars play along side with a simple chug and alternate strums. Together it creates this steady hypnotic flow as the snarling, distorted vocals breathe their rottenness overtop. In this case, experimentation that definitely works.

Sova still produces his distinct vocal projection, switching it up with a rasp and a growl, and then anywhere in between; he's a character of his own kind. The band is also just as simple in their ways; typically moving forward with a slow to medium paced beat compared to faster oriented black metal groups who blaze forward forgetting what traffic lights are for or taking a moment to smell the flowers, even if they are withered.

There are pieces here and there on this album that I can say satisfies my dark and odd palate either by producing a shadowy atmosphere or a section where the musicians create something that can be remembered later without annoyance. Though it seems like someone in the band knew how to carry a dark tune and then someone else kept rearing their unwanted head into the picture. It is at a point where they can't decide between harsher material and material that would be more appealing to a broader audience, and that audience I can honestly say brings out song writing that is common place, essentially not attached with many strings, or looked at as easy to get along with, being only mildly tainted. The production can also be compared to a relationship: it is polished enough and missing those little jagged edges that Barathrum were known for (this is even cleaner sounding than the last and with less power) that it would be like a prospective date showing up to your door completely naked, at once baring all of the little details that might come with added time, throwing surprises out the window and having nowhere for the gopher to burrow till appropriate season. So they instead combine both factions together and you get a mish-mash of varied music, some of it wanted and some of it unwanted. It would nice to excise certain tracks and combine them with worthwhile songs on the previous album 'Saatana' and then "POOF" a magically decent full length album. Though playing Merlin the Disc Jockey isn't always a favorite game of mine...