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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]