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Rewriting their Past in Compelling Fashion - 91%

the_s0mberlain, December 3rd, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, 2 12" vinyls, Forever Plagued Records (Limited edition)

After ending almost a decade of silence with 2012’s critically acclaimed “Enthroned is the Night,” Demoncy chose to revisit the past with a rerecording of the most polarizing album of their catalog- 2003’s “Empire of the Fallen Angel.” Opening with 4 new offerings that continue the sound and aesthetic of the their most recent work, the album proceeds into a complete re-imaging of the songs from the original Empire of the Fallen Angel. Remolded to fit the style of “Enthroned is the Night” and their innovative USBM classic “Joined and Darkness,” these works have an entirely new personality to them and seem like they may serve to both re-imagine and - possibly- CORRECT an album that disappointed a major part of their fan base. And while the album itself is a masterful journey into the occult, the speculation surrounding it’s purpose is equally compelling.

In “Empire of the Fallen Angel (Eternal Black Domain)”, we have the signature Demoncy sound throughout the album. By this I’m referring to the heavy downturned guitars, the mid-paced (slow, even, at least by black metal standards) tempos, blazing distorted bass, and creepy whispered vocals throughout (along with some backing gutturals for good measure). This creates the perfect haunting, demonic black metal atmosphere that’s more ritualistic than war-like. Rather than assault you with furious energy, Demoncy does just the opposite and draws your own energy out of you in a way that’s still pretty fucking brutal. But not only does the album master these dark arts- it does so in a way that’s more effective and, dare I say, better than “Enthroned as the Night" or even the legendary “Joined in Darkness.”

Now this alone is reason enough to give this album a high rating and recommendation, but what is possibly most exciting is that this is not at all the means that the original “Empire of the Fallen Angel" engaged the listener. On that version we saw a melodic, polished, and much faster and bombastic working of the material. The guitars were played at least an octave higher which was somewhat of an abandonment of the sound Demoncy was at the time known for. Even the vocals were different- being some what of a standard monotonous death/black metal growl. Yet on this new “Eternal Black Dominion" version, it seems like Ixithra (the sole vocalist/instrumentalist on this recording despite being regulated to drums only on the 2003 version) sucked the life, energy, and soul out of the original and dragged it straight to hell. And the results are pure fucking magic. The melodies now feel darker, the compositions more majestic, and the overall work more misanthropic than the original. The songs not only meld beautifully into this heavier and more sinister Demoncy style, they add new dynamics and flesh out new potential that may not have otherwise been conceived.

While I was a huge fan of the original “Empire of the Fallen Angel,” many of Demoncy’s most dedicated followers were vastly displeased with the more accessible sound that was explored on that work. The old lore at the time was that shortly after, another album was recorded that was even more “commercial sounding" and was destroyed by Ixithra before anything was publicly heard. Whether or not this was at all true or related, the band did not record again for another 8 years (baring a short 7" split released in 2004) and 4 of the 5 members left the group without ever returning. In interviews and press releases for their next album “Enthroned is the Night,” Ixithra had said frequently said that it was “a return to form.” This seems to imply that the original “Empire of the Fallen Angel” was not part of Demoncy's “true form" and leads me to believe that this rerecording serves to offer to not only reinterpret, but REPLACE the original in Demoncy’s discography.

Only with this understanding of the history of “Empire of the Fallen Angel" can one truly appreciate how powerful and special this new version is. There is felt here both a love for the original material and an absolute hatred of its existence, and this polarity invokes a fascinating transformation of the compositions. Ixithra seems to be attacking the perceived failures of yesteryear with a newly acquired mastery of his style. And whether or not there was truly a motivation to bury the past, this is unquestionably both the superior version and an expansion of the modern Demoncy sound.

In closing, “Empire of the Fallen Angel (Eternal Black Dominion)” may be Demoncy's finest hour yet. While Burzum, Gorgoroth, and Dimmu Borigir among others have rerecorded their full length albums, none have done so in such a courangous, innovative, and fulfilling way as Demoncy has with “Empire of the Fallen Angel (Eternal Black Dominion). Hearing the new derivatives of “Night Song” (and its fucking incredible new intro) and “The Obsidian Age of Ice” was both nostalgic and adventurous and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself preferring these to their predecessors. As for the 4 new songs that open this album, they didn't seem very fresh or exciting and thus weigh down my score for this album. However they still compliment the older songs (being different in technique) and thus contribute to the overall complexity of the album. Bottom line- this is Demoncy's most well rounded and satisfying work to date, and would serve to please both longtime fans of the band as well as newcomers looking for the right first impression.

(Kudos to Forever Plagued Records for the badass poster included with the vinyl version, and for scrapping the atrocious orange color scheme of the 2003 album's layout)