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Grand Sabbath Pact - 95%

televiper11, June 6th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2002, CD, Aftermath Music (Digipak, Limited edition)

Runemagick are among most underrated bands in the history of metal. Their relative obscurity is hard to pin down. Musically, in terms of songcraft, atmosphere, and immersion into the unearthly realms of the occult, they are basically without peer. Yet despite a prolific twenty-five year existence, their reputation exists on the fringes: highly regarded by some but not highly enough considering the overall quality of their output.

Moon Of The Chaos Eclipse is another monster Runemagick record, fifteen years old this summer and yet this will be its first review. There is no justice in that. When it comes to the elemental power and occult allure of death-doom, there is hardly a better record to listen to. Runemagick's morose tunes, occult atmosphere, and penchant for bad trip riffs combine to form another intoxicating batch of criminally underrated tunes -- this is a fine record in the classic Runemagick style (think of them sounding like the bastard offspring of (early) Asphyx coupled with Electric Wizard but as good, if not better, than either of them).

Amped up on rotten psychedelics, Runemagick's acid trip death-doom will harrow and corrode your already overtaxed adrenals. Their riffs twist-and-turn down dark corridors of quick tremolo picked riffs, slow head-nodding (almost stoner-y) grooves, and chugging mid-paced death'n'roll ear worms. The precision that goes into these riffs, their sheer memorability take the weight of their hybrid experimentation. Not quite death metal, stoner doom, or death'n'roll and yet somehow all of the above. Above and beneath this breathtaking memorability is some closely anchored bass and dankly vivid soloing. Kudos too on the drumming, which finds that precision swing pocket, always accentuating and never cluttering the tunes.

Lyrically, Runemagick mine the vast untapped regions of inner darkness. The sheer horror of what lies beneath our civilized skein is brought to the surface, examined, and re-submerged. This is dark psyche-stuff, tinged with occult knowledge and a hermetic desire for more than what the surface shows. Vocals are darkened vault incantation with flourishes of the ethereal (in the form of guest female vocals and occasional choral intonations). Taken together, it is an intoxicating stew of morbidity that one cannot easily shake after listening.

Favorite tracks include the utterly addictive "Upon Red Thrones," with its pinched harmonic shudderings and toxicly vicious riffage. "The Necro Ambassador" should slake the thirst of any OSDM junkie who needs another fix of early Asphyx while "Grand Sabbath Pact" clearly demonstrates that all through-lines (or ley lines) of metal (no matter how extreme) trace back to Sabbath. Taken altogether, there is rarely a false note to be heard. Some may not dig the somewhat meandering instrumentals but otherwise, this is a front-to-back masterpiece of true (oc)cult death-doom from a band who deserves a much wider audience.