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Comfortingly camp - 89%

we hope you die, September 25th, 2022

There is comfort to be taken from the fact that the unashamedly camp eccentricities of a band like Medieval Demon still have a place within the extreme metal zeitgeist of 2022. Their latest album ‘Black Coven’ opens with a track entitled ‘Where Witches Dwell and Labyrinths Confuse’, boasting a literalism as amusing as it is reassuring. The music is no less unapologetic. Veering from the outrageous occultist bombast of their countrymen Necromantia, to more traditional horror elements via hammy organ tones, juiced up haunted house soundtracks rearranged for metal guitars, and theatrically ghoulish vocalisations fit for such a setting.

The whole thing would be a challenge to treat sincerely, dripping as it is in horror clichés from every pore, were it not for Medieval Demon’s ability to whip this framework up into a juggernaut of powerfully melodic and undeniably creative Hellenic metal. Any notion that this is a tongue in cheek all-for-show celebration of melodramatic occultist metal is quickly eroded by the title track, which sees them deliver a symphony of epic melodic extreme metal that manages to make room for both an intellectually engaging narrative structure and a whole host of bizarre musically diverse pockets (saxophone solo included).

Such accommodation is achieved through Medieval Demon’s understanding of exactly how humour functions within extreme metal. The joke only lands – or rather achieves longevity – if it is bolstered by ontologically demonstrable musical chops, something that these Athenians hold in abundance. Some may find the packaging a little too silly to swallow whole, but for those willing to not only engage with but indulge in the abrasive occultist horror drive behind this album, nuggets of substantive musical pleasure await the discerning music fan.

Medieval Demon are aided and abetted in this regard by more cinematic production values than was found on previous releases. The guitars – despite remaining the dominant voice within these pieces – are set relatively low in the mix, positioned on an equal footing to the pronounced keyboard elements working through organs, choirs, strings, and pianos to give the entirety a truly tragedian scope of expression. The drums are soft yet powerful, providing bounce and poise to the theatrical elements, never letting the music languish for lack of momentum. Vocals act more as a dramatic performance than anything purely musical, narrating dark occultist tales to the listener with pronounced lyricism.

In this regard, Medieval Demon pose as a link between various forms of underground metal, from the Hammer Horror worship of retro doom and psychedelic metal, to the ghoulish black metal of Mortuary Drape and Necromantia, wrapping this into symphonic metal, and no small element of traditional heavy metal deployed as link riffs between each rumination on regal necroticism. ‘Black Coven’ is therefore as daring as it is cliché ridden, indulgent as it is masterfully composed and arranged, and as eclectic as it is specifically fixated on its limited aesthetic. A deceptive layer cake of an album concealing many hidden revelations for those willing to take the plunge.

Originally published at Hate Meditations

Drenched in old-school darkness - 84%

gasmask_colostomy, September 16th, 2022

Medieval Demon have quite a bit of history, made more exciting if you are interested in the Greek black metal scene. This Athenian outfit have been there since right near the beginning, or at least since the annus mirabilis of Greek black metal, when in 1993 Rotting Christ, Varathron, and Necromantia all released their debut albums. It took Medieval Demon until 1998 to achieve the same end, and they then very promptly split up. For 15 years. The resurrection was attended by most of the original line-up and has now yielded 3 albums with the coming of Black Coven, while additionally seeing the recruitment of Jim Mutilator, who seems to be making a collection of scene bands for his resume, having already played with Varathron and Rotting Christ back in the day. These circumstances lend plenty of credibility to the newer form of Medieval Demon, as does a sound drenched in old-school darkness as well as a certain amount of vivid pomp.

To be honest, I didn’t quite know what to expect from Black Coven, though in the end the result falls close to the tree, if with its own peculiar features evident in the flavour of the fruit. For a start, drawing a line between introduction, song, and ritual perplexed me beyond my first listen, seeing as 'Where Witches Dwell and Labyrinths Confuse' masquerades as a warm-up to the album for a while, but resolves at some unknown point to keep going for nearly 6 minutes with bits and pieces of atmospheric keyboard work, evil heavy metal ambience, and blastbeat attacks. Another couple of similar structures make it clear that eerie feels were allocated a priority place on the menu. You can put it down to listening to too many Cradle Of Filth albums with their multiple introductions, but the near-constant presence of keys is what threw me off: Lord Apollyon mainly uses organ, choirs, and piano to provide the main dose of melody to the blocky riffing of the 7 compositions, aside from a couple of guitar solos and the saxophone on the title track. Yes, we’ll come to that in a moment.

Though the keys provide a kind of lushness to the listen, the core black metal elements are supplied with a very unfussy grit that lends itself both to mid-paced epic marches and quicker assaults. As you may expect from a Greek band of this age, black metal ferocity never equates to coldness, the less ornate moments perhaps achieving a dryness when Sirokous’s prolonged croaks are audible, while the abundant melodic components leave very few dull moments. Despite sounding suitably grim for topics that involve a lot of nighttime and graves and Satan, the saxophone works oddly well with its sorrowful parp, not dominating the moments it appears nor making me think too much of that George Michael song. In fact, I’m rather surprised how well Medieval Demon cope with the stripped-down production of Black Coven, because it exhibits a nice range of potentialities, from the sinister march of 'Baptismal Blood' (where the saxophone returns) to the full flurry of tremolos on 'Nocturnal Sacrilege' to the crypt-dancing suspense of 'Katavythisis'. Even the bass work manages to shine at various moments, the barer format of the opener a highlight in this regard.

In terms of standout passages, the differing paces of the songs help distinguish movements, while the vague gothic and heavy metal shapes provide a lighter contrast. 'Sylvestris Deus (Protector of the Forests)' seems the only cut that sticks to a single approach, battering at high speed with guitars more reminiscent of a slightly optimistic Norwegian act like early Enslaved, though it also runs shortest at just 4 minutes. Another briefer number may have worked well, since the average of the others exceeds 6 minutes, yet the album as a whole only lasts 41 minutes, and with this kind of variety that hardly causes problems. Some particular riffs stick out as excellent, and in this regard Medieval Demon could be compared to Cradle Of Filth around the Midian period, where they drew from a large pool of extreme styles and rarely sounded generic. 'The Grave Dwellers' flits between some deathly palm-muting, blackened charges, and much sparser gothic parts, while the closing movement of 'Nocturnal Sacrilege' is worth a listen for those keen on the Dissection school too.

In some ways it helps that Medieval Demon have the old-school credentials to back up a clearly targeted sound, though I suppose I would consider this a strong album if it came from a new group too. With such members as perform on Black Coven, the word “derivative” can be swept off the table, in which act the careful crafting of the songs and indeed the saxophone assist also. On the other hand, I never feel thoroughly transcended as with the genius works of black metal - from any nation - so I’m happy to chalk up the latest Medieval Demon release as a good way into the band and a strong continuation, but not an absolutely essential album.

Originally written for The Metal Observer -