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Epic, yet melancholic pagan/folk black metal - 99%

Life_Sucks, February 9th, 2011

Legion of Darkness are a little known Italian pagan black metal band. Their debut Cantus was an excellent release of epic black metal by any standards. The follow up, Merides, sees the band further improving their sound by diversifying the music even more and perhaps moving even further in the pagan/folk black metal direction while retaining the epic, yet melancholic atmosphere to their music.

For me to give a song-by-song rundown of the album would be pointless, as they cram so many ideas into one song that such a review would prove tedious and tiring. These guys incorporate as many ideas into one song as many other bands do in a whole album. A great variation in pace, riffing, and atmosphere is to be found on each song on this album (well, all except the closing track, Ithica, which is an excellent acoustic, folk-ish sounding track which essentially serves as a relatively brief outro, and works very well in the context of the album). Time changes in the music are constant, yet the fast and slow passages are musically related and flow into each other seamlessly. Though the material varies greatly, most of the music has a melancholic feel. Folk instrumentation (violins, piano, flute?) is incorporated in parts of all the songs, further enhancing the pagan/folk aspect of the sound. Though it is certainly not constantly present throughout all the songs, it doesn’t sound forced or out of place when it is used.

The riffing on this album ranges from faster paced standard black metal technique, to doom-ish black metal during some of the slower passages, to acoustic folk passages, to almost progressive extreme metal in some of the slower or folk-ish parts. In addition to the frequent changes in time and style, the music itself is very complicated. The riffs are very complex, with little to no repetition, and at times are complimented by folk instrumentation, which neither dominates the music nor takes a back seat to the guitars, and blends in naturally. The drumming is very tight and flows well with the pace and feel of the music, from the slow doom-ish parts, to mid paced snare beats, to fast paced blasting. The vocals are for the most part well executed black metal snarls, though clean vocals are incorporated as well (usually during the slower parts), and sound very good, as well as natural in the context of the music, as opposed to pompous and forced.

I had to listen to this album many, many times to even attempt to review it, since there are so many riffs, ideas, and melodies in even one song that it is impossible to develop any sort of familiarity after only a few listens. I consider this a positive quality, and would say the same thing about my favorite death metal band, The Chasm. What is most impressive about this is that every passage of every song is memorable. This album is anything but boring. Composed of only five songs and clocking in at just over fifty minutes, this album feels much shorter, since the music is so varied and interesting. I would say that this album is so good that it ranks in my top five black metal albums of all time. It’s really a shame that these guys can’t find proper distribution for their material. I hope they find a deal soon, since this stuff is too good to not be heard.