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Merciless meets Afflicted? - 61%

robotiq, January 24th, 2023

The Celeborn demos are worth a listen. This old Swedish death metal band played a harsh, rampant, sometimes proggy style with no traces of Entombed/Sunlight worship. Their first demo, "Pestilentia Sabbata", is an amateurish but likable affair. The band delivers twenty minutes of intense thrashing which reminds me of early Atheist (i.e., back when they were called R.A.V.A.G.E.), or maybe a cross between Merciless and Afflicted. This is gritty, nasty, street-smart stuff. Don’t be deterred by the fact that they were named after some elf from Lord of the Rings.

A couple of things distinguish the band from their (many) peers. The most obvious is seen in the massive acoustic/violin section in the middle of the title track. This is impressive stuff and sounds way ahead of its time. It is one of the earliest examples of violin in death metal (beating My Dying Bride and At the Gates by a year). This section is also a showcase for Jörgen Bylander’s outstanding rasping vocals. There is an almost 'melodic black metal' feel to it all, a genre that didn't exist at the time (though I presume Bathory was an influence).

The band’s potential is obvious. "Supplicium Crucis" is straightforward compared to the aforementioned title track, but offers some virulent thrashing thrills. "Mortales Divinatio" takes things to the next level with some wild soloing courtesy of Magnus Sahlgren (displaying skills that later landed him a session job on Tiamat's "Wildhoney"). The longer song, "Cultus Deum", returns to moody, noodling proggy territory (without the violin this time). It is an interesting experiment, showing a different side to Sahlgren’s guitar talents, but doesn’t quite coalesce into a cohesive song.

This demo sounds like a talented band entering the studio for the first time. They achieved a decent production too. This could be expected for a Swedish band in 1991, when the genre was as close to the mainstream as it ever got. The main criticism here is that the song-writing is not as streamlined as it could be. The band would, predictably, rectify this on their superior second demo ("Etherial").