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Ancient slabs and blood-drunk stabs - 70%

autothrall, September 2nd, 2011

Riddle of Meander is another member of the strictly by-the-book black metal movement, offering nothing above or beyond its peers or influences. But I'd be dishonest to neglect a few particulars about the Greeks that I do enjoy. For one, the band's name itself is curious and distinct among such a crowded field. I sort of like the sloppy, barbaric logo the band is sporting. The cover her is great, naught more than a lit candelabra imposed over ancient, creepy stone architecture. It all calls to the loneliness and impenetrable isolation of the 90s tradition, where empty castle walls, cathedrals and desolate wilderness locales gleaned at the listener, beckoning them into the emptiness and abandonment. To a degree, End of All Life and Creation even mirrors this aesthetic in its musical discourse.

That's not to imply anything out of ordinary, because what you're getting here is the same tried and tested, philistine nihilism inherent in hundreds of other bands to dawn into the 21st century beneath the swollen stalactites (and legacies) of their forebears. End of All Life and Creation does possess a particular clarity for this style of underground black metal. The guitars are clean and crisp, the drums tinny but efficient, and the bass curves lightly below the onrush of curves. The vocals are absolutely nothing special, but their bloody and pain-inflected enough to make their points. The songwriting here revolves largely around the mid to fast paced charging maneuvers typical of the Norse and Swedish-influenced followings, but you'll also get serving moments of slower, despotic grooves that follow in the mold of Hellhammer or old Darkthrone. Riddle of Meander feels somewhat less barren than a number of their contemporaries, in that they vary up the riffing enough within each individual track to maintain the audience's attention.

If they write a longer song ("Superior Black Flame", "Immortal Hate") you can expect a number of dynamics, from streaks of windier, icier desperation to bleak and tranquil segues of cleaner tones guitars that offer a momentary pause from the storm of sadism. In fact, these cleans are used to provide much of the 'ambiance' of the overall album, in place of the traditional synthetic pipe organs and choirs. Samples of bells or breezes are also used conservatively, so you really do feel that you're lost within the morbid, archaic edifice hinted at by the cover, and this is truly the selling point of the record. Huge riffs, memorable levels of torture and atmosphere are not to be found very often throughout the debut, but if you're simply seeking something to channel your imagination from the belly of monotonous, urban/suburban decay into the alcoves of Satanic tyranny and oppression, End of All Life and Creation makes a feasible attempt to live up to its title.