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A union of weak and lost souls. - 60%

Diamhea, November 10th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, Digital, Tanglade

Quite possibly the biggest surprise of the year, Spectre Abysm sees The Daemonic Era through with one valued asset its direct predecessor didn't have nearly as much of: time. It has been seven years since Phantasmagoria, and Daemon has been so quiet on the promotional front, I was within inches of declaring the band essentially defunct due to lack of online presence. In all honesty, Jensen likely couldn't care less about maintaining a Facebook page, but has all of this diverted effort resulted in anything worth a damn, to say nothing of the Limbonic Art name at all?

Worth mentioning first is Phantasmagoria itself, an album that while largely lambasted upon release, has held up quite well to these ears. Hollow, abrasive production values aside, the record delivered what most would have expected from a Limbonic Art album sans Morfeus: rabid, thrash-inflected symphonic black metal interspersed with moments of drawling, introspective atmospheric diatribes that routinely sputter upon impact and drag song lengths out further than functionally necessary. Still, "Crypt of Bereavement," "Prophetic Dreams," "Dark Winds;" there are plenty of killer cuts amid the gratuitous repetition, so where does that leave Spectre Abysm?

In a compositionally flawed place, right from the start. Daemon is clearly trying to evoke phantoms of eras long past, coming together as a handful of crucially long tracks basked in repetition and seemingly endless, cyclical Emperor-esque tension. Said tension feels like it often builds up, only to never release into any payoff worth a fucking damn. It is shocking how one can think of any of these riffs as sufficient in such protracted confines. Opener "Demonic Resurrection" lays this flaw out clearly right from the start, cranking out a ravenous assault of tremolos in solidly lethal lockstep with the surprisingly improved programmed drums, only to go absolutely nowhere warranting its ten-plus minute running time. It feels like padding upon padding, with patience being the only victim.

These issues persist for the duration, save for sections of "Omega Doom" and "Triumph of Sacrilege." The remainder is steeped in exhausting blastbeats and Daemon's best attempts at invoking the cosmic diaties hailed on In Abhorrence Dementia, a record that bears some ephemeral similarities to Spectre Abysm, particularly sections of "Triumph of Sacrilege," during which Daemon hails Satan atop a pulpit of space dust and pulverised adversaries, however few there may be nowadays.

If it seems as if I am spending most of this review talking about other albums, it is because Spectre Abysm does little to warrant its own existence. Daemon has proven his ability to write chest-pounding, raucous riffs occupying the black/death/thrash cross-section in his own Sarcoma Inc. side project, but the brutal honesty is that 2008's Psychopathology contains more memorable riffs in a single song than all of Spectre Abysm. To Daemon's credit, the production values have improved, and through this the programmed drums feel more direct and well thought out. The muddled, abrasive mess of a mix on Phantasmagoria has been eschewed in favour of a cleaner, more direct and balanced attack here, which gives much needed bite to the meagre riffs themselves. The ethereal interludes feel wandering and pointless, much like the weaker sections of The Ultimate Death Worship, and the songs proper lack payoffs in a huge way. This just isn't cutting it for me, but maybe five years down the line I'll be able to appreciate it more, like Phantasmagoria. At the very least, we know Limbonic Art is still alive - but maybe it is time to hang up the cloak after all.

Haunting Evil - 85%

SlayerDeath666, July 23rd, 2017

Limbonic Art were one of the earliest bands to play symphonic black metal and for a long time, they were the best in the business outside of Emperor. The duo of Daemon and Morfeus produced a string of excellent albums that haunted your dreams and filled your nightmares. Morfeus’ grand symphonics were truly genius and led the way down the dark path complimented by Daemon’s riffs and nightmarish vocals. After Morfeus left to form Dimension F3h, it was hard to imagine Daemon continuing the string of excellence on his own. Spectre Abysm is the eighth Limbonic Art album overall, the second without Morfeus, and the first in seven years.

As expected, Limbonic Art have continued in the more straight-ahead black metal direction of the last few albums. The good news for fans is that this album sounds more like Legacy of Evil than Phantasmagoria. The bad news is that Limbonic Art is still just Daemon, which means the grand symphonics of their classic sound are a thing of the past. Daemon is a guitarist so the riffs are what to come to the forefront on this album. The riffing is mostly fast and furious tremolo picking with the occasional bout of heaviness. Daemon’s riffs have always been very good and that is still true but some of the band’s creativity was lost when Morfeus left. However, “Through the Vast Profundity Obscure” is a serious riff monster of a straight up black metal song. This song actually sounds fresh, like there was some serious thought put into it with innovative riffs that actually have a bit of thickness to them. The opener, “Demonic Resurrection,” is in the same vein with seriously heavy riffs in the intro along with Daemon’s trademark clean chants before going full throttle with the tremolo picking. There are a number of great riffs in the middle of the album too.

Historically, Limbonic Art has used a drum machine in place of a real drummer. While it tended to sound a touch electronic, it gave their sound a bit of an industrial feel that really worked for them. They were able to incorporate sounds that would not be possible with a real drummer. Daemon still uses a drum machine but these days, the programming is simpler and more typical of black metal, with blast beats and double kick drumming filling most of the album’s background. Granted, it fits the music very well but more variety would have been welcome. At least “Omega Doom” has a couple nice fills in the middle section with some back and forth kick.

Daemon’s vocals have not changed a bit through the years and Limbonic Art’s music is better for it. His nightmarish rasps are unlike any other in the genre because he strikes an excellent balance between a haunting atmosphere and lyrical intelligibility. He has the ability to go harsher and raspier when desired but his mid-range is so good that he usually does not need to go that route. Even “Omega Doom” has him going back and forth between mid-range and high in the chorus. The first time is mid-range, the second is much higher, and the third is lower again. Daemon does go higher briefly on “Demonic Resurrection” but it is his almost operatic cleans that really grab the listener’s attention. They are such a stark contrast to his normal vocals and they are so good that you cannot help but be impressed. He uses them less on this album than in the past but they are still very effective and he has not lost a thing in the seven years since the last album.

All things considered, this is another great album in Limbonic Art’s excellent discography. It is nothing particularly new for them but it is a black metal album with some real punch to it. Even without Morfeus’ genius, Daemon managed to put together a great album of mostly straight-ahead black metal that is both unique and interesting, especially given repeated listens. They will never top the classics at this point but it is good to see that one of the genre’s forerunners can still make great music and continue to stay relevant in today’s world.

- originally written for The Metal Observer