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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