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Blackdeath - Phantasmhassgorie - 93%

Edmund Sackbauer, September 9th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Heidens Hart Records (Digipak, Limited edition)

I came to appreciate Russian black metal (and Russian metal in general) over the past few years. The scene seems to be huge and still growing and while there are a lot of pretty average bands the best of them can firmly stand beside the better-known names of the genre. One such band I only recently discovered is Blackdeath. Although the two brothers Para Bellum and Abysslooker and their female drummer Maya might only be known to very dedicated followers of the genre they have been putting out material for more than two decades. This album with the sonorous name “Phantasmhassgorie” is full length number nine and if nothing else a very fine and highly professional example of raw and old school black metal.

Like more or less each metal genre having its origins way back in the eighties there is little room left for innovation and not much new territory that can be discovered on the black metal world map. There is a reason why some bands made big waves back then (and still keep making) and have gained a lot of followers over the past decades. Blackdeath are clever enough to pay tribute to some of the big names and chose a quite conservative approach of taking all the well-known single pieces putting them back together and enhancing them with a little bit of their own DNA to create something that sounds familiar but fresh at the same time.

The classic tremolo lines are in full force and there are a lot of the typical epic and often melancholic melodies that we all know from the Scandinavian bands of the second wave of black metal. The overall sound is more akin to the minimalistic and raw approach that used to define black metal in the beginning but there are also some bits that have a more laid-back and less adventurous feeling. Atmosphere is something that is important for each black metal outfit but Blackdeath have put in additional effort to make sure that “Phantasmhassgorie” presents an eerie and gloomy trip through dark soundscapes going to haunt the listener even once the record is finished.

The drumming is often very fast but there are enough sections in which the tempo is slowed down to give the listener a chance to breathe and enjoy the moody moments. Don’t get me wrong – this is still some hefty and aggressive metal music but you can clearly see that the members of Blackdeath have put a lot of emphasis on writing nicely flowing songs with a lot of atmosphere. Things never get too hectic or chaotic and even in the speedier parts there are clearly identifiable patterns making the music even more enjoyable. The lead harmonies constantly dwelling in the background serve as melodic counterpart to the riff attacks and the blast-beat sections. There are several disharmonic structures implemented in the songs but nothing that would make the music difficult to enjoy.

The vocals are nasty and snarling fitting the instrumentation like a glove. The production is great with the right balance between rawness and clarity making each detail audible without burying anything in the mix. Overall “Phantasmhassgorie” is a great album and given that this band has been around for so long they for sure have the right to sound as they do and stay true to their roots.

Swirling, Miasmic Blackness - 90%

TheStormIRide, August 28th, 2019

Four years after their phenomenal full length, Gift, Blackdeath, one of Russia’s longest running and most consistently impressive black metal bands, unleashed their ninth full length album, Phantasmhassgorie. The album was released by three different labels: Heidens Hart for a digipak CD and 12”; Hospital Productions for a cassette version; and Fallen-Angel for a jewel case CD. Longtime followers of the band have come to except tight black metal compositions with an experimental tinge, and Phantasmhassgorie does not disappoint.

As with past material, a casual listen reveals the bands roots in the second wave, as the music waxes and wanes between pummeling tremolo runs with blasts and melodramatic, atmospherically charged nuance. That being said, the band’s experimental edge continuously creeps out, be it the intrepid interplay between the bass and the guitar riffs or the constantly shifting moods and tempos. The result is a constantly shifting landscape of slightly off-kilter, twisting black metal. The forty-five minute album feels warmly familiar yet, at the same time, certain aspects feel alien and uncomfortable; an unyielding onslaught of commotion and turbulence.

The album feels vaguely similar to the schizophrenic vibes of their seventh album, Phobos, though where that album felt a bit mashed together, Phantasmhassgorie reveals itself as a completed puzzle of variables. Welding together the mid-paced crushing groove of “Gott ist mein Hass” with the cascading progressions of “Hass aus dem Himmel”, Blackdeath deftly pieces alternating currents into their most cohesive and entrancing album to date. Though the past two decades have shown the band members to be more than competent musicians, this latest offering really highlights their abilities: Polar Maya’s drumming is incredibly tight and multi-faceted; Abysslooker’s riffs are a constantly shifting flux of darkness and twisted anger; and Para Bellum’s bass lines offer a vast depth with striking counterbalance, while his vocal lines are depraved, seething, and forceful.

To say that Phantasmhassgorie is the Blackdeath’s most striking album is an understatement. The album just continues to grow and unfold into a swirling concoction of everything that makes black metal work (and with more than a dozen listens in, I don’t think it’s going to let up anytime soon). Not many bands are able to continue with passion and conviction after a twenty year career, even less are able to constantly shift and experiment with positive results. With Phantasmhassgorie, Blackdeath remains Russia’s finest black metal export and show no signs of slowing down.

Written for The Metal Observer.

Phantasmic Glory - 80%

Cosmic Mystery, May 15th, 2019

Russia’s Blackdeath has existed since 1995 but I've only happen to encounter them lately by chance. Having been quite an active sect of musicians in releasing 8 full length records with their most recent being Gift in 2015, they return with Phantasmhassgorie. Possessing no prior knowledge of the band’s older material, I decided to let this be my introduction to their music. I refused to visit older material, as I feared it would only swaying me from what this latest effort has to offer. Fast forward to the present, it turned out to be a good decision. Not only do I enjoy the music on Phantasmhassgorie, I also think the band offers a bit more than the same fatiguing black metal approach of the mid 90s. They truly sound as though an effort is being made to sound as diverse and distinguishable as possible, minus harming their sound as a black metal band.

What's striking with Phantasmhassgorie is the tightness of these compositions and the sincerity of the vocals. Colonel Para Bellum’s throats possess a rare blend of 1st and 2nd wave black metal, slightly similar to that of Shamaate of Arckanum and Izaia of Lamasy. Brushed by the technical grooves of the drum and guitar combination in both leading and bridging sections, Blackdeath have created a record that could deceive the listener into thinking Phantasmhassgorie was released in the late 80s. The more time I spend with Phantasmhassgorie the more I enjoy what is being delivered; henceforth strengthening the replay-ability. Songs such as the quick paced "….ist Hass" and the Title-track showcase a genuine understanding of synoptic black metal song writing techniques.

As good as the mentioned songs are, they're no match for my favorite track being “Hass in den Adern der Erde”, the longest entry on Phantasmhassgorie and definitely the best. It's beyond satisfying, hence possessing the ideal amount of technicality and groove to keep the listener interested for its entirety. Thus said, I think this is where Blackdeath truly excels, they are able to maintain that black metal aura all the while adding and replacing diverse styles. Second wave black metal drumming and landscapes are injected along with groovy mid-paced semi-technical sections that tear to shreds my preconceived notions of how the band might sound. I was preparing myself for ‘run of the mill’ 2nd wave black metal but was I wrong. I'm in shock as to how good Phantasmhassgorie is, I can barely move away from it without contemplating another spin; hence, it certainly can be placed amongst the titans released in 2019 thus far.

They're certain sections in which I can hear the bass guitar run alongside the leading guitars in creating that technical death metal tone that reinforces the semi-experimental aspect heard on Phantasmhassgorie. It's conspicuously presented in the slower segments as heard on “Durch den Wirbel des Hasses” and “Der Hass der Toten”. Adding to the spectacle of Phantasmhassgorie’s excellently executed technical and experimental aspects is the production that exerts a raw overcast canopy of sorts. Another aspect contributing to the success of Phantasmhassgorie is the chemistry shared among the musicians; I say this because all tracks flow so well, they don’t appear to be rushed at all, thus exhibiting an unhindered consciousness for each member's role/s.

Phantasmhassgorie is rather impressive as it should be given this is Blackdeath’s 9th full length album. There are so many little things implemented on the record that its difficult to feel bored at any point. Phantasmhassgorie displays pensive song structures even when not backing away from the idea of experimentation; I consider it an efficacious find for 2019. If you're open to the Idea of semi-eccentric 1st wave + 2nd wave black metal, then Blackdeath's Phantasmhassgorie is one of the records you're most likely thinking of.

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