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Beyond the Rainbow, Into the Black Abyss - 90%

bayern, September 1st, 2020

I haven’t forgotten that I have one more official release to cover from the Nomicon saga, one of the ten most impressive, most interesting discographies I have ever come across. It’s just that this opus here is nothing like their previous instalments… it took me a while to grasp this transformation although the latter had already started on the preceding “Yellow” effort when one of the most unique, most unorthodox thrash/death shredders ever started showing appreciation for the less flashy black metal tactics. Certainly, musicians of such a calibre can’t settle for the mere rehashing of tunes from the Emperor, Satyricon, or Dimmu Borgir repertoire, and this affair was still pretty eclectic and unusual, with snippets of surreal tech-death lore frequently brightening the horizon.

But it was also clear that a potential full-on transition to the realms of black was quite likely, one that saw its bloom on the guys’ swansong. I’m not sure what “halla” means here, in Bulgarian its meaning is “a supernatural female destructive creature”, but there’s nothing overly destructive or threatening on this otherwise pretty cool opus. The band have embraced the canons of black metal, straddling through several nuances, the brooding tactics of mid-period Barathrum worth of note as well as the several operatic sweeps in the vein of Dimmu Borgir and Emperor again.

It’s strange how fitting and relevant this blacky clout is… like the guys have always had this black string in their hearts, and the latter was simply waiting for the right time to find fuller expression. For the purpose, however, they had to forget their visionary shredding and the weird musical gimmicks… they had to merge with the crowd. A merger which sounds every bit as compelling as anything out there released in the early-00’s, a doom/blacky miasma that arrives at your doorstep with “Arrival”, a sinister orchestral procession which generously disperses keyboard-drenched motifs all around. The restless blast-peppered dynamics on “God Weaker Than Me” are a rarity although the band never settle for hypnotic funeral dirges as the bouncy nervous riffage on “Saint” and the epic dynamics on “Grief” timely intercept any attempts at anti-climactic lethargy, with “Tribe” (hello, Sadist!) returning to the over-the-top operatics for a bit, the keyboard saturation replaced by stylish lead sections. Nothing stands on the keyboardist’s way on “Demolished”, though, a near-hysterical flamboyant crescendo which could serve as the closure to any classical opera piece.

There are moments that would again recall the Italians Sadist, “Tribe” above all, a wink at the latter firmly acknowledged with the mentioned song of the same title, with the keyboards being a dominant instrument and all, although the strife at musical complexity here is not that strong; the band have voted to move on, there’s no going back to the picturesque, kaleidoscopic guitar wizardry of old… it’s a not very optimistic, dark-ish vision that has been provided to the audience at the dawn of a new millennium, the guys drawing with black strokes, the keyboard element again by no means a brightening tool. The apocalyptic witch-esque rasps serving as the vocals are just another addition to this misanthropic baroque celebration which can be quite compelling as well, especially if you are fond of the black side of the metal spectre.

I wasn’t the fondest of it fan out there back then, but I did spend quite some time with this album, trying to convince myself initially that this was another masterpiece, and later nodding in affirmative approval at these dark symphonic sounds which penetrate your soul, slowly but surely, making you reconsider your reserved stance towards the genre, eventually winning you for its cause without insistently pricking your aura. It’s more of an invitation to a dark finite dance than a coercion into a dark abyss descent from where there’s no going back…

fans of the latter option should definitely check out the band members’ side-projects like the symphonic blacksters Gloomy Grim, the gothic/black hybrid Soulgrind, the black/thrash purveyors Walhalla, the melodic black metal cohort Thy Serpent… there’s quite a bit to choose from this batch’s repertoire, but rest assured that black always leads the way, even though it’s sometimes served pleasantly smeared and semi-dissipated.