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Hellenic black magic rituals - 87%

DarkLore, April 21st, 2020
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Hells Headbangers Records

Medieval Demon are Hellenic black metal veterans, formed in 1993, although the band split-up in 1999, after releasing their first full-length in 1998. Five years after their reunion in 2013, finally the band came up with a sophomore album named Medieval Necromancy, twenty years after their first Full-length!. Anyway, I always favour quality over quantity, and a high quality album this is. The core of the band is formed by the brothers and founding members, Lord Apollyon (keyboards and percussion) and Sirokous (vocals). For this album, they recruited Damien Omen as drummer, and their longtime friend and old band mate, Jim Necrochrist from Darkest Oath, to play guitars and bass once again. All of them do a commendable job. The debut album, Demonolatria, was actually a pretty good work of atmospheric black metal with keyboards and some punkish assaults, inspired by Scandinavian bands such as early Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, Mayhem and Bathory. Twenty years is a lot of time though, and for this second collection of arcane rites, the band members have honed their playing and songwriting skills significantly, taking a way more regional approach to the genre at the same time.

Medieval Necromancy is a Mediterranean, more precisely, a Hellenic black metal album. Why do I point this out? Well, many of you readers already know this, but for those who are beginning to get into extreme metal, let's explain that Hellenic black metal has a distinctive sound, quite different from Scandinavian black metal. While Scandinavian black metal normally is very grim, raw, harsh, bleak, dissonant and cold; Mediterranean black metal, while sharing most of those traits to an extent, it tends to be more atmospheric, macabre, dark, sinister and melodic, with a ritualistic and occult feel to it. This album by Medieval Demon fits the Mediterranean/Hellenic black metal mold pretty well, but it does it with class and distinctiveness.

The reference to Dario Argento's "The Three Mothers" trilogy of supernatural horror films at the beginning of the first track, makes for a promising start, setting the mysterious, dark and occult vibe, that will prevail for the whole album. The macabre, horrific, sinister and ritualistic atmosphere is carried mainly by the eerie and arcane keyboards, which are very 90's sounding. In addition, there are some church organ styled keyboards to be found, and some pianos too. Another interesting and effective atmosphere enhancer are the timpani, with their metallic, resonant and deep sound present in most of the tracks, and used in a very tasteful manner. Other resources present are effects like bells, and the wolves' howls in "Blackmoon Sacrifice".

Besides the atmosphere, another characteristic element of Hellenic black metal are the heavy metal leanings. Medieval Demon's music has plenty of that, including heavy riffing, power chords and melodic guitar leads and soloing. All those heavy metal elements have been properly darkened, "evilized" and imbued with some Mediterranean-flavored melodies. The riffing is quite rich and varied, the faster charges include both the typical tremolo guitar work from the Scandinavian school, -although adapted to the Hellenic sound- and the fast staccato riffing, pioneered by Rotting Christ, and used by many Hellenic black metal bands afterwards. In several songs, fantastic acoustic guitar passages can be found, the one heard on the second track, "Spells of the Akkadian Priests", has a considerable Dissection influence, and it is followed by a post-black metal inspired fast part. A rarity within the album, but not an unpleasant one. The bass is meaty and quite audible and prominent most of the time, specially in the slower and more atmospheric sections, often devoid of guitars, where it takes a main role along with the synths, bringing to mind Necromantia's ritual mysticism. The songs are balanced, with a variety of tempos, ranging from mid to high paced, and consequentially, so are the drums. There are several blast beat bursts, where the drums show all their intensity, but there is plenty of room within each song for slower rhythms, supported by the timpani.

Concerning the vocals, they are not the iconic high-pitched shrieking often associated with the genre. Sirokous' coarse and harsh voice reminds more of a necromancer uttering nefarious curses and reciting arcane invocations. Occasionally, his vocals slow down and wane to evil whispers. The main vocals are backed by eerie female chants and choirs, and in the title track, by Gregorian-type male chants to great effect. There is some sort of curious interlude, "Les Litanies de Satan", where a woman, decadently recites the verses of the French "cursed poet" Charles Baudelaire. As for the lyrics, the band's logo, with its serpentine ceremonial dagger, the candle, the chalice, the inverted crosses and the pentacle; along with the song titles, point clearly to magic, occult themes, sacrifices, death, evil and Satanism. The album ends with a woman making some kind of evil and deranged invocation, accompanied by church organ styled keyboards and female dark choirs. Thus; closing; the ritual.

The album sounds very Greek to me, without being a copy of the well known "Hellenic Black Triarchy", formed by Rotting Christ, Varathron and Necromantia. Medieval Demon went for their own sound here, and they succeeded. The macabre black and white oldschool artwork by Mark Riddick, is the perfect wrapping for a really rich, balanced, nuanced and dynamic album. These guys may have not released a lot of material, but they are experienced musicians. They know how to play their instruments, they know how to write good black metal, and, perhaps the most important thing, they do it with conviction and devotion. The result is a record brimming with quality, well written, well executed and that feels really honest and uncompromising, as black metal should be. Medieval Necromancy is another proof of the great moment that Hellenic black metal has been living for over a decade now, and it is recommended to all devotees of this particular sound/cult. This scene is still going really strong, and I hope that we will keep receiving fantastic works of Mediterranean black art, such as this one.