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Masters of Blasephemy - 75%

TheSpirit, October 16th, 2019

As one of the first true American black metal bands, Profanatica has secured a legacy of disgust and blasphemy that will endure as long as the genre does. Formed by a triptych of erstwhile Incantation members in 1990, Profanatica's first demo Putrescence of…/As Tears of Blood Stain the Altar of Christ not only brought the then fledgling black metal genre to the shores of the United States, but did so in a way that made the Scandinavian scene seem almost puerile in comparison. Trading in the wispy, wintery tones of Norway for something a bit more bass-heavy and substantial, the band's initial run from 1990 to 1992 yielded six releases of the most putrid and devilish, yet satisfying black metal the United States will ever have to offer.

Twenty-six years later Profanatica hasn't changed one damned bit. Since their reformation in 2001 (centered around the only remaining original member drummer/vocalist Paul Ledney), the band has steadily been vomiting forth material without any sign of growth whatsoever; and honestly, that's exactly what their fans want. In a world where extreme metal has become increasingly more palatable, it's fitting that the original purveyors of filth have continued to craft black metal that still feels legitimately malicious. Their most recent album The Curling Flame of Blasphemy is no exception and stands as one of black metal's most deliciously evil and abrasive albums of the year thus far.

Like all of their prior releases, The Curling Flame of Blasphemy sees the band crudely bashing their instruments to achieve a sound that can only describe as "offensive as fuck". They've never been a band that relies on subtlety or tact - and certainly not melody- but simplistic, discordant noise to alienate the uninitiated. Even the more "tame" tracks are goddamn near unlistenable; for proof, look no further than the wonderfully titled opener "Ordained In Bile". Chilling ambiance builds into satanic fervor as the song explodes into a cacophony down-tuned trems, sludgy bass and militaristic blasting, led by Ledney's trademarked rasps. Years ago when I first heard his vomitous vocals, it made my stomach churn in sickness and this effect has not diminished. What his delivery lacks in variety is more than made up for in legitimate repulsiveness.

Elsewhere "Host Over Cup" acknowledges Profanatica's death metal roots with a chunky opening riff accentuated by off-kilter pinch harmonics. Though expelled from Incantation thirty years ago, Ledney has never forgotten where he came from. The pronounced death metal influences manifest themselves in the guitars hellishly low tuning the and presence of a rumbling bass. The insane low-end of Profanatica has always been an element that has separated them from the pack, and in numbers like "Yahweh Rejected", it grants a sense of swallowing, cavernous depth. However, the bass isn't the only thing that makes The Curling Flame of Blasphemy feel like a trip into the seventh circle of hell; the album's production is akin a chasm, with each instrument ringing out and echoing into oblivion. It's the only slight "improvement" the band has made to their sound over the years, and another characteristic of their death metal origins, yet it serves to give their music life. It's gritty, muffled, and when closing track "Curling Flame" begins its descent to the album's end, provides a suffocating atmosphere thick of smoke, ash, and brimstone.

The Curling Flame of Blasphemy is a Profanatica album through and through; though it's almost redundant to mention at this point in their career, if you haven't enjoyed the band as of yet, this won't do you any favors. However, longtime fans and anyone seeking the most vile and vicious black metal will certainly find what they are looking for here

Time to Throw in the Unholy Towell - 60%

Roffle_the_Thrashard, July 26th, 2016

For some this need not be said, but making release after release for 26 years, with 21 of them under your belt in that time, can pretty much wipe out the creative juice that some groups have. Granted there are Iron Maidens and Slayers out there that seem to keep a decent pace with their albums and don’t really tend to run out of that much creativeness or energy. On the other hand you have New Paltz, New York’s Profanatica. On their latest full-length in installment in their career entitled, The Curling Flame of Blasphemy, they have proven to me that a cool atmosphere is not enough to make your album work to a complete extent.

When I first listened to this album I immediately noticed the album artwork, which is akin to the art of Immolation’s Dawn of Possession. That made me instantly captivated. I was also captivated by the sludgy, grimy tone of John Gelso’s guitar and bass work, and the foreboding vocals and drums of Paul Ledney. Things were looking good for this album so far. For that song that is. The same notes, riff patterns, and even some melodies repeated themselves more than what was needed throughout The Curling Flame of Blasphemy, and after “Magic & Muhr” had finished running its sinister course, I said to myself “please don’t let the whole album be like this.” I didn’t really get my wish all that much.

The band would sometimes mix things up with some tempo changes in the drumming department or having little drum fills or rudiments at the beginning of some songs to start them up. And with that being said I think that it is the drumming that saved this album from being total snooze fest. It can be refreshingly complex at times, but even simple and blasting. The vocals of drummer Paul Ledney are not well mixed into the album, but this record isn’t supposed to be pretty. This ugliness both hurts and helps Ledney and Gelso, as it takes away from the production quality, but adds to the ambience. Speaking of ambience, although Profanatica’s description is “black/death metal,” fans of Sunn O))), Evoken, and even the Melvins will approve of the sometimes droning, entrancing, doom metal riffs that can be heard on The Curling Flame of Blasphemy.

I don’t have a problem with drone or funeral doom metal, but I cannot listen to it for more than twenty minutes at time, so basically one song (ba-dum-tss). So if you share similar views with me just walk away from this thing. Boredom will be induced for you. I’ve always admired bands that can stick around for ages and never really tire all that much, but when the creative juices stop flowing very well, you’ve got to either A), move on to new playing styles, or B), quit. Look at Death in the 1990′s. Schuldiner and the gang wanted to branch out, and they ended up making albums like Human and Symbolic. So, as for Profanatica, The Curling Flame of Blasphemy is interesting, but only for a few songs, and then monotony ensues. I think that they’ll try new things after this, and if they do it will certainly help their career. What we can take from this is that evolution is key, unless of course you’re formula is tried and true. I’m looking at you ACDC…