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Perfect melodic black metal album....Almost. - 98%

BlackMetal213, July 17th, 2012

Lord Belial is a Swedish black metal band that was formed out of the second-wave of black metal in Europe, in 1992. Their first album "Kiss the Goat" came out in 1995, somewhat late during the second-wave, but they had released a couple of demos back in 1993 and 1994. This album, "Nocturnal Beast," is Lord Belial's sixth full-length studio album released in 2005, and the second to feature a more melodic black metal sound, first showcased on the band's previous album "The Seal of Belial," released a year earlier. While fairly close to sound as "The Seal of Belial," "Nocturnal Beast" evokes more of a melodic death metal influence as well. One might even, possibly, think back to Lord Belial's 2002 album "Angelgrinder" when listening to this record, as that one was somewhat of a "blackened death metal" record, but with less melody and more ferocity.

Now, this album is basically what you would expect from a melodic black metal band: it is, well....melodic. Now, that does not mean it is overly-produced, or cheesy. This follows in the same vein as fellow Swedish black metal bands Dissection, Naglfar, Vinterland, and Sacramentum. Melodic black metal, with a hint of death metal. The death metal influence lies within some of the riffing on this album, as the riffs on here are generally more "heavy" and the guitars are more "meaty" than one would expect on a black metal record. The first actual track "Succubi Infernal," not including the album's intro track "Invocation of the 68th Demon," begins with a type of melodic riff that you, throughout the album, will hear many times. Not that same riff, but riffs played in the same way. About two minutes in, a weird, almost uncomfortable industrial noise begins. It sort of fucks with the listener's head in a way. The next song "Demonic Possession" immediately got my attention upon hearing this album for the very first time. Why? Because there is a riff in the intro, that sounds strikingly similar to Mayhem's "From the Dark Past." Not exactly alike, it certainly was not taken from the track....but it gives off a similar vibe, and sounds quite similar to it with some originality too. Another thing the listener will notice is how a lot of these songs begin with a clean riff in the intro: "Desolate Passages," "Nocturnus," "Fleshbound," "Spiritual Damnation," "Indoctrination of Human Sorrow," and even the album's closing track "Death March" includes this. Those 6 tracks are where it is most noticeable, and it definitely adds a melodic, dark atmosphere to the songs. The track "Desolate Passage" is VERY much influenced by some of the songs on Naglfar's first album "Vittra." In fact, at this point, I thought I was listening to Naglfar.

The production on this album is absolutely crystal clear. At times, almost too clear. This is one of the downfalls of this album, and why it does not receive a 100 from me, because it damn well could have. The production should have a little dirt on it. Black metal gets most of its atmosphere from guitar fuzz, which is created from raw production. Now, this certainly is NOT the most well produced black metal album out there, in fact, their 2008 album "The Black Curse" is even more hi-fi than this album, and a really good example of over production in black metal would be Dimmu Borgir's albums post 1999. If this album actually had a little bit of a more raw sound to it, I would give it a 99. Easily. However, because it does not meet this wish, it gets a 98; which, still, is a damn good score. As it should be, as this is STILL a damn good album. The other reason this album looses one more point, and drops to a 98, is the fact that it is sort of unoriginal. Dissection basically did everything on this album before and right after Lord Belial released their first album back in 1995, with the albums "The Somberlain" and "Storm of the Light's Bane." This is not a ripoff or a Dissection worship album, but the road has already been paved and the cup has already been filled... Other bands like Naglfar and Sacramentum fall into the same category, as Dissection is basically a huge influence on them, too. But these two small minor flaws only drop the album two points, so no big deal at all.

Now, back to the music. There are some keyboards here and there, but they do NOT overpower the music. This is not a symphonic black metal album, nor does it try to be. A great example of symphonic influences and key usage would be about halfway through on the track "Insufferable Rituals." This song is also full of chugging riffs, and amazing melodic clean riffs, and then, the vocals are amazing. Thomas "Dark" Backelin is a great vocalist, as well as a great guitarist, and his performance on this album must be addressed. This album is guitar driven, and he, as well as Hjalmar Nielsen, definitely succeed at driving the album forward. The drums definitely have their shining moments too, examples would be the blast beats in the intro of "Monarchy of Death." After he is done with blast beating and Dark's vocals come in, he goes into a pummeling double bass drumming technique, however, on the chorus of the song, he goes back into furious blast beasts. He is not the only shiner on this track though, because at around 2:30 in, we receive one of the biggest eargasms on the whole album: a melodically beautiful guitar solo. Soloing in black metal is fairly rare, but it does happen *cough Freezing Moon cough.* The next song, "Fleshbound," is actually chock-full of beautiful guitar solos. In fact, "Fleshbound" is my most played track on the entire album, definitely my favourite. The clean riffs in the intro, and the melodic electric riff underlying the, so beautiful. The listener is taken onto a ecstatic journey with this track. It contains not one, but TWO guitar solos. As if one solo in black metal was not rare enough, we get two. It kind of shocked me, honestly, when I first popped the CD into my player, but I was definitely surprised in a good way. "Spiritual Damnation" is more so a black metal song than "Fleshbound," especially with its occasional tremolo riffs. And the bass, especially in this track, is very clear and audible, which is of course a rarity in black metal. Hell, the bass on the whole album is fairly easy to hear, which for some might be "iffy." I don't mind it at all, the bassist has some talent under his belt. This riffs in "Spiritual Damnation" are easily some of the most melodic on the album. "Indoctrination of Human Sacrifice" is the last full-length song on the album, and an ultra melodic way to close the album at that. In the intro to this song, there are some "bluesy" sounding guitars, but after that, we get the harsh vocals and tremolo picking. This song is one of the more varied and technical on the album, still retaining its very melodic and heavy edge.

For fans of Dissection, Sacramentum, Cryptic Wintermoon, Naglfar, Vinterland, Immortal....any band like that that sounds harsh, with a melodic edge in the music, this is the album for you. Go out and buy it. It will not disappoint.