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Emperor's new clothes? - 84%

Daemonlord, July 17th, 2011

I think it's fair to say that Poland have more than their fair share of quality death and black metal bands, and with Vesania boasting members of Behemoth and Vader in their ranks, it's not hard to see where the highly proficient abundance of musical guile comes from on this, their debut album.

This could almost be a lost mid-period Emperor album, if it were not for the slightly less progressive guitar gymnastics, whilst still maintaining the tone of black metal from the farthest reaches of skull crushing, well honed and produced extreme metal soundscapes. This is pretty far from an overindulgent Dimmu-like release, or even an under-cooked Darkthrone-like affair as you can get in 'black' metal, managing to push the album's sonic boundaries into the realms of a more synth-drenched death metal Myrkskog, whilst retaining its ingrown blackened sensibilities. Spattered with atmospheric sections, the album boasts generally long track lengths each taking you on a sonic journey, ranging from face-removing sandblaster sections, to slower, flesh burning monolithic Aeternus-esque destruction. There's a fair bit of Zyklon-like futurism interweaved into the general crushing black/death, with intelligent riffs embedded deep into the song structures, adding a strong sense of dynamics to the fold, which when coupled with the strong but not overpowering usage of synthesizer can (at times) sound really impressive.

The only reason I didn't give this a higher mark is that, for me, it's a little long for the intensity of the music on display. If they could've shaved maybe ten minutes of unneeded padding here and there, it'd have been a much more intensive, enjoyable listen. However, that said, it is still a completely worthy album which would strengthen any extreme metal fan's collection.

Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com

A Near-Perfect Epic Black Metal Experience - 96%

XuL_Excelsi, September 21st, 2010

It’s not often you come across an album that’s so good that you label it a classic after only one or two listens, and even after prolonged exposure the album never proves that label wrong. It’s even more seldom for a debut album to reach such heights. Vesania’s “Firefrost Arcanum” is one such album.

There is a sincere air of intensity on this album, the kind that awes the listener without trying too hard. Vesania didn’t overdo anything on this album, didn’t overthink any element of the music, to the effect that they created an amazing album that is natural and organic while still being immensely heavy. They didn’t need any minimalism or repetition to enforce that organic feel, they simply play with the confidence of a band on their 5th or 6th album, belying the fact that this is a debut! Incorporating very unique structures and progressions, channeled to your enthralled ears by excellent production, Vesania’s “FIrefrost Arcanum” is a classic. This is an album so well-written, so perfectly crafted that its obscurity is a crime.

This is an album more epic than anything I’ve heard in ages. Even with the ambitious length of the songs, it never drags or becomes monotonous. Every song, every instrumental, is an integral part of the album. More often than not, I found myself listening to the full album without even skipping any interludes. Every element of “Firefrost…” is damn-near perfect! All of the compositions are excellent, with interesting time signatures and unexpected changes to keep you intrigued. The guitars complement one another perfectly, playing very fast black metal with imaginative riffs and amazing harmonies. Nothing comes as expected, and that’s what makes this album so enjoyable, it gives it longevity. “Firefrost…” will feature on playlists for a long time.

The guitars serve up memorable sections on every song, creating excellent progression throughout the album, with immense tremolo and often death metal riffs, always impeccably infused to create absolutely brilliant blackened death metal. The drums are also extremely effective on the album, with furious pace and perfect tuning. Not content with simply resorting to blast beats, the drummer outdoes himself on every track with amazing tempo’s and fills to attenuate the high speed blasting and double-bass. Even the bass is impressive when audible, showing very adept fretwork, clearly opposed to simply following the guitars in the background.

Symphonic elements and keyboard accompaniment can often ruin an excellent black metal album. It’s an easy trap to fall into, particularly with a keyboardist as a permanent member. It ensured the downfall of Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir even before Vesania released this mammoth album. That is why I’m often skeptical of symphonic black metal, but Vesania have belied my fears by achieving the balance on “Firefrost Arcanum”. The keyboards never take over the guitar and always serve their purpose as they should in all BM bands, that purpose is creating atmosphere. Here the symphonic elements enhance the music, creating nuances adding overall to the effect of the album, lending enormity, and filling out the epic sound that is “Firefrost Arcanum”. One could almost call this album theatrical, but not in a self-satire way as Bal-Sagoth did it. The balance on this album is meticulous, and yet natural, nothing forced.

It is strange that AnubiSS never did vocals for Behemoth (where he goes by the alias Orion), since he’s clearly a very talented BM vocalist, in addition to being an excellent guitarist. His black metal screams on this album are incredibly intense and aggressive, varying to include death metal growls from time to time. He has enormous range, possibly unrivalled by any except the mighty Nergal himself. It’s a pity Orion discarded this vocal style in favor of a more generic Dimmu Borgir approach on later Vesania albums.

There is incredible depth and purpose on this album, it’s not often you find a debut album this well-rounded. Disappointingly, Vesania did not continue in this trend, opting instead to dilute their musical direction into the commercial BM territory of aforementioned Norwegians Dimmu Borgir. Their later albums lack this rampancy, this sincerity. This is one of those albums that are just destined to become your favorite, and not just for black metal but for metal in general. The timeless appeal of this album puts it high on my list of greatest albums, it’s just that good. It’s also one of those once-in-a-career moments, quite like Cradle of Filth’s first two releases, where you know an album of this caliber won’t ever be repeated, making it all the more legendary.

These lengthy tracks will always be over all too soon as this album bears its soul in repeated listens. Even if I do tire of “Firefrost…”, it will always be a measure for all symphonic black metal bands to be found wanting. Every song is excellent, and each one for a new reason. For me, the standout tracks are “Nova Persei”, “Marduke’s Mazemerising” and “Daemoonion Act II”, but none of the songs are letdowns and none of the instrumentals are fillers. Every song must be heard in the context of the album and each one with its intro, as it contributes to the immersive journey of “Firefrost Arcanum”. A particular highlight is “Algorfocus Nefas” leading into “Marduke’s Mazemerising” exquisitely.

As a whole, this album is an intense and expansive musical experience to rival any. It is unbelievable that Vesania were this good on their debut effort! Quite simply, this is one of the best symphonic black metal albums I have ever heard.

And the flames shall flow with us... - 85%

Diamhea, August 11th, 2008

Firefrost Arcanum is the black sheep of Vesania's discography. The band's later albums would adopt a more straightforward modus operandi, featuring shorter tracks and less dynamic arrangements. While enterprising, many of the tracks here can be extremely overwhelming, making Firefrost Arcanum a very difficult listen, but not necessarily unrewarding.

Tremolo riffs give way to atmospheric sections and some heavier, chugging passages atypical of the genre. Vesania has an unusual riffing style that includes the use of a lot of open note, staccato-esque breaks syncopated with the drums. This would become more prevalent on later releases, but remains an attribute of their sonic profile that I can't help but notice here. Guitars remain on the heavier side for the genre, and while featuring some impressive dissonant tremolo passages, also have the wherewithal to slow down and gather atmosphere, preventing the whole ordeal from becoming bloated and tedious (which it nearly does at several points). The vocals remind me of Limbonic Art's earlier material, sans the caterwauling present on said band's material. Wróblewski devolves into a croak at times, but his prime approach is inoffensive if anything but original. There are some guttural roars that do break up the monotony of his blackened snarl, so I can't fault him for trying to add variety.

The keyboards are almost universally upfront, similar to Vesania's later material. However, they take on a much more atmospheric role on Firefrost Arcanum, adding an impressive counterpoint to the heavier riffing present on tracks such as "Marduke's Mazemerising". They lend a potent, sinister atmosphere that proves that keyboards do have a worthwhile place in heavier music like this. The drums are perhaps the most technically impressive hallmark of the album. The blasting is impressive in not just speed and technicality, but for how long Dariusz can go with such frenetic vigor. He also spends some time experimenting with unfamiliar patterns, at least lending some originality to the proceedings. I would still say that he has improved since Firefrost Arcanum, making his current tenure in Dimmu Borgir well-earned.

The production has always been a bit uneven to my ears. The guitars tend to dominate the mix, and sound overly bassy and overwhelming. This forces the keyboards into the background more than they should be. The drums are sonically a disaster, the snare sound is a little clunky and the toms almost sound like they are clipping at times. For a debut album, much of this can be forgiven if the material is as compelling as it is here. "Moonthrone. Dawn Broken" is the most effective of the longer cuts, really taking its time to build and release tension several times over during the course of its 9+ minute runtime. Opener "Mystherion. Crystaleyes" is conversely a more accessible example of the style being pioneered here. A style which while highly rewarding, almost requires a certain mood to be fully realized. Vesania truly sever the veil between fantasy and nightmare on Firefrost Arcanum. An ambitious near-classic.

(Revised/Updated 1/3/14)

Firefrost - 87%

AtteroDeus, January 24th, 2005

Primarily I became aware of and interested in the band due to the outside engagements of two members - namely Daray with Vader, and Orion as Behemoth's most recent bassist.

Of all the bands, I've heard, that straddle the black & death genres, the majority have often been bands with death metal sounds more evident and only flourishes of black metal - such as Akercocke.

To my ears, Vesania appear to come at it from the opposite angle, namely a black metal band with the heaviness of death metal, and vocals that vary (slightly) from black metal growls a la Atilla & the more higher-toned death metal vocals.

For a want of a better comparison, Vesania sound rather like Emperor in places not just in terms of their speed and black metal visciousness but also Orion occasionally veers into Ihsahn territory vocalswise (though usually less of a scream than Ihsahn). But rather than being just another Emperor tribute band like so many others out there, most doing a dis-service to the legacy of the Norse dominion, Vesania take the keyboards which were more or less background & filler music with Emperor, and expand on them not just in between tracks or as intros to tracks, but as a strong part of the music itself.

I'm not saying that they've taken some sort of sexual obsession towards symphonica in the way in which Dimmu Borgir often have - diluting out the metal and replacing it with synths - but in far more of a subtle and mutually beneficial way.

It's not all perfection here, even taking into account my usual boredom with the majority of black metal... there is the occasional tendency - as with a lot of bands - where the songs sometimes sound rather too much like it's predecessor, but in my opinion that doesn't warrant deriding this album too much.

Maybe I've missed the death metal flourishes, as I seem to think of this far more of a black metal album than the 'black/death' it's alleged to be.
Worth checking out not just if you're an Emperor fan, but also if you're curious like I was about Orion and/or Daray's extra bands to contrast with say Behemoth & Vader or Pyorrhoea.