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Hecate Enthroned - Embrace of the Godless Aeon - 95%

Vooyasheck, May 8th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, Digital, M-Theory Audio (Bandcamp)

It seems that nowadays it's quite long for a band not to release any album over 6 years. When I heard about the new Hecate Enthroned I was sure I must have missed an album or two since they released Virulent Rapture. But I haven't. And this is different Hecate Enthroned, with new vocalist, Joe Stamp. Very good addition to the band.

Basically if any of you are missing the feeling of your first black metal album in the mid-90s, grab this and you won't be dissapointed. This is the old-school Cradle of Filth mixed with old-school Emperor and some special touch that makes this album something unique, including Sarah Jezebel Deva in several tracks ("Goddess of Dark Misfits", "Silent Conversations with Distant Stars" and "Erebus and Terror") and amazing keyboards played by Pete White.

I know that probably comparing them to Cradle of Filth was not always used to compliment this band, but this time it actually is. Cradle of Filth probably wish they could record such album. As I was enjoying the revival of old-school Swedish death metal in form of LIK for example, now Hecate Enthroned shows us that the revival of old-school symphonic black metal is also possible. It's something Cradle of Filth are playing only when they are performing their old tracks. Hecate Enthroned shows that you can remain within that sub genre and yet create something fresh. With furious drums and fast chords. And some more silent passages that build up into epic mixture of death metal with black metal, British style. And I like that apart from typical black metal shrieks you can hear some good growling here. And it has enough melody to keep me engaged from the beginning to the end.

So far my favorite track is "Enthrallment", sixth number on this list. Very interesting position this year and released in January. Not sure if any other position this year will be able to top this album. These guys are not new to this scene and they know what they're doing.

Obviously, if old-school, it has to have a proper intro. And "Revelations in Autumn Flame" comes in with basically black metal passage, followed by more death metal passage and then the song carries on mixing these two, really good track as well. If you're into Sarah Jezebel Deva's voice, I can strongly recommend "Goddess of Dark Misfits", but she also does good job with over 9-minutes-long "Erebus and Terror", really good track to close the album. And as the album is on your speakers at least 3 times, each and every next listen gets better, you notice the construction of each track and start enjoying those little elements that make is a really good listen from the start to the end.

My explanation for not giving it full 10? Only 3 tracks with Sarah Jezebel Deva.

Thanks for Kelly Liza Cronje for inspiration.

Originally posted on www.metalbite.com

A fantastic return to form - 100%

EssenceOfWinter, February 1st, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, M-Theory Audio (Digipak)

The glory years of Hecate Enthroned for me have always been those of the first three releases with Jon Kennedy on vocals. Their other releases, while competently written and performed, just could not compete with the majesty and atmosphere of their early work. Listening to Embrace of the Godless Aeon is like being in 1998 once again, and that's a very good thing. Everything that came between Dark Requiems and this album seems like a long sojourn spent wandering in the wilderness in comparison.

Firstly the vocals: new singer Joe Stamp's vocals are perfect for their symphonic black metal style and the higher pitches he achieves are one of the things I have been missing for all these years. His deeper growls also do not disappoint and both are used to great effect throughout this album.

The songwriting is something to marvel at. Each track is epic with plenty of twists that work so seamlessly that you could not imagine them sounding any other way. The keyboards also hark back to the days of yore with otherworldly instrumentation and the guitar work, bass and drumming are top notch. Focusing on individual instruments seems counterproductive when everything comes together so cohesively but they are nevertheless worthy of high praise.

I won't mention the band they are always compared to because I feel they should be judged on their own merits but suffice it to say that Sarah Jezebel Deva sounds as haunting as she has ever done on the songs she provides vocals for. She has a share of lead vocal duties on "Goddess of Dark Misfits", which is a first for the band, and it helps to build the atmosphere that permeates this track.

Although this is old-style Hecate Enthroned, this is not simply a re-hash of old ideas but rather a new album with a fresh sound and a band that is not simply resting on its laurels and unafraid to take risks. The sound is fairly crisp without the sterile digital sound that much modern metal suffers from. Some comparisons to Nightside-era Emperor and the better parts of Dimmu could be made but really, this is Hecate Enthroned performing in the style they do best.

I pity anyone reviewing this album who awards anything less than top marks because it means they are incapable of appreciating the perfection that Hecate have wrought with this album.

Like the winter forest, this CD has me spellbound.

[Please note that this review is based on one I previously submitted to Amazon]

Macbeth’s downfall dons the black crown again. - 84%

hells_unicorn, February 1st, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, M-Theory Audio (Digipak)

It is both a blessing and a curse to be relegated to the shadow of another, but that is ultimately how most tend to approach the creature that is Hecate Enthroned. Their close association with Cradle Of Filth goes a bit deeper than their original lead vocalist Jon Kennedy handling bass duties for a brief spell in said band during the mid-1990s, which was itself a critical time for the U.K.’s somewhat late entry into black metal’s 2nd wave relative to their Scandinavian counterparts. The same general symphonic/gothic gloss has tended to adorn the sound of this long-running rival to Dani Filth’s twisted operatic brainchild, though this band has taken a more conservative approach to their craft that reminisces a bit more of how things were in the 1990s from a stylistic perspective, namely the raw and high speed fury matched by a mixture of guttural and sepulchral vocal ravings that defy comprehension; though production wise they have not been averse to polishing their presentation with updated studio wizardry and higher end orchestral sounds.

As if the similar stylistic trappings between this band and England’s arguably most infamous musical export since Black Sabbath weren’t overt enough, Hecate Enthroned’s cessation of studio silence after 6 years in Embrace Of The Godless Aeon also features the talent of former longtime Cradle Of Filth guest and brilliant soprano Sarah Jezebel Deva. Her contribution to this opus is a bit more modest in terms of scope, spanning a couple of songs at key points, but her soaring operatic wails provide a sense of consonant luster amid a sea of beastly ravings and machine gun drumming and do a fair job of rivaling Floor Jansen in the process. The male foil that she plays off of in Joe Stamps, who is likewise a new arrival to this outfit, brings a dual vocal assault that is a bit atypical for the sort of “beauty and the beast” vocal matchup one might expect, bottoming out in territory deep enough to put Frank Mullen on notice, while still showcasing the higher-pitched, incomprehensible goblin-shrieks that are characteristic of this style, bearing a closer similarity to Ihsahn and former Gorgoroth vocalist Pest than that of Dani Filth.

But for all of the extraneous elements that modify this package at the fringes, the basic structure and overall presentation here is one that is typical to what was common about 20 years ago when Old Man’s Child and Dimmu Borgir were just starting to rise above the krieg-obsessed sound of Marduk and Cradle Of Filth had not quite become a full-blown commercial force. Though arguably the strongest feature of this music is the drawn out songwriting and shimmering atmosphere with a heavily melancholy demeanor, underscored by the dreamy keyboards and liquid guitar sounds of “Whispers Of The Mountain Ossuary” and the dank and forbidding landscapes of the epic closer “Erebus And Terror”, this album is not one to be slavishly tied to depressive atmospheric devices and come with plenty of battle-driven riffs and explosive drumming. Baring the updated production value and all the clarity that it provides, the high octane explosion of spiritual darkness that is “Revelations In Autumn Flame” is about as overt of a throwback to Emperor’s signature sound on In The Nightside Eclipse as could possibly be concocted by any symphonic black metal outfit.

Even when getting beyond the straight up blinding fury of the first couple of songs that chase this album’s obligatory instrumental prelude (another obvious nod to common practices from the late 1990s) and into the longer material, there is a consistent balance of auditory violence complementing the dense atmosphere that refuses to relent. Following a brief classically driven piano intro with Deva’s melodramatic vocal musings frolicking at the fore, the format of “Goddess Of Dark Misfits” does present some Cradle Of Filth-brand theatrical underpinnings, but mostly finds itself in territory equally suited to the rapidity and rage of Troll and Limbonic Art. Further flushing out some rather curious commonalities that this band happens to share with the latter aforementioned band’s obsession with things cosmic, “Silent Conversations With Distant Stars” goes into full blown Emperor-on-steroids mode in the same manner and somehow manages to make this spacey, keyboard-drenched sound work with Deva’s crooning lullaby work and rambling spoken asides.

About the only strike against this otherwise full blown throwback to what was arguably black metal’s better days is that things get a little too ambitious for its own good. It is a subtle flaw, but the album’s tendency to go longer with each successive song occasionally finds the band meandering a bit off the map, not to mention that the freeform structure of these songs and Deva’s almost ad-libbing presentation amid droning repetition makes it easy to lose one’s place. Generally speaking, Hecate Enthroned has tended to keep their songs more concise during their formative period in the late 1990s, and like their previous outing Virulent Rapture, this album goes for a more epic character minus the technical detailing that tends to go with it. This time around the band has a stronger command of this approach and find themselves with a collection of songs that should appeal greatly to Emperor and Dimmu Borgir fans, as well as the usual Cradle Of Filth enthusiasts, but long-term fans of this band will find a somewhat different creature than the one that first surfaced in 1995.

Originally written for Sonic Perspectives (www.sonicperspectives.com)