BALMOG – Covenants of Salt 9/10
Spanish exponents of the occult and the individual BALMOG have been terrorizing the underground Since 2003. with countless releases that are highly regarded amongst the black metal elite, Covenants of Salt continues the progression laid down on 2020s other single-track EP Pillars of Salt
An epic single track of massive black metal proportions, Balmog take the notions orthodox and imbue it with genuine revelations, it elevates Covenant of Slat to another level of what is considered extreme music. At eighteen minutes, there is much to explore, and the quartet do not waste a single moment. From an ominous opening and huge riff that reveals the spareness and grandeur of their music, employing multiple vocalists and styles from the fury to the clean choirs, it is majestic and ethereal. A pilgrimage across the desert sand to discovery that takes time to develop and then plunges you into its depths before elevating you again.
Covenants of Salt subject matter is vital, the human condition seeking knowledge denied by divinity is accusatory, inflammatory yet educated, nuanced and driven with purpose, the perfect accompaniment to their music. it works where others fail, the pillars and depths, matched by some haunting melody, the moments of pure aggression marking chapters in a complete work that is punctuated by cavernous vocals, guitar sections that elevate yet are unafraid to mix psychedelia with the inherent violence of black metal. There are nods to the godfather of black metal where some of the choirs sit high above the music before the vitriol drags it back to the earth, smothering the listener with a denseness and intensity that has to be heard to be appreciated, vital in its inexorable march towards the final inevitability.
Balmog continue their evolution whilst sacrificing none of their ideals, utterly uncompromising, beautiful yet terrifying, Covenants of Salt is immersive and all-consuming. Simply incredible.
Mournful Congregation- The Exuviae of Gods – Part II 9/10
After awakening from their slumber with the mighty The Exuviae of Gods – Part I in 2022, Adelaide’s Mournful Congregation returned with the mighty and unparalleled The Exuviae of Gods – Part II.
Call it what you want, doom, death doom, funeral doom it doesn’t matter, from the beaten, desolate, and omnipresent lurking despair that opens Heads Bowed (a reworking of their 1995 track), Mournful Congregation are without doubt one of the heaviest bands in existence. Ever. Their music is slow yet purposeful. The three tracks on offer run a staggering forty minutes, in which none of it is wasted, this is sombre melancholic hurt, without the unnecessary drama and trappings, just pure heartfelt honesty delivered with riffs that crush the soul and rhythms that are the perfect accompaniment. So great is their music that “The Forbidden Abysm” is exactly that. At times a harmonious spiral into the nadir filled with regret and the anguish of looking at a disappointed reflection.
“The Paling Crest” is the benchmark for patience. Each note is a purposeful part of the journey that begins with a sorrowful acoustic opening and some clean vocals, it is stunningly restrained along with a great solo before the heaviness returns in its eighteen minutes that is beautifully crafted and undefinable in terms of its ability to transcend thoughts and become an emotion.
The Exuviae of Gods – Part II is the perfect companion to Part I, and at a time when the doom genre is undergoing a resurgence, Mournful Congregation are a pillar of epic utter heaviness that lingers long in the subconscious. Unmissable.
Mavorim – Ab Amitia Pulsae 9/10
Returning with their fourth full-length release. The utterly uncompromising German outfit Mavorim unleash Ab Amitia Pulsae (“Struck by Loss”) that traverses the extremity of black metal and ambience.
Considering the anger and intent that is evident from ‘’ Ein Zerrbild aller Leiden’’(a caricature of all suffering), Mavorim flavour their music with a great sense of dynamics and melody, the vocals of Baptist sung in native German range from the clear to the unholy, all eloquently delivered with a sophistication inherent in their music. It may be memorable, but a tangible malevolency lingers at times, subtlety at others, more direct yet always surprising. “Die andere Seite deines Traumes” (The other side of your dream), with its melancholic guitar beginnings, is torn asunder by the vocals and erupts into a primal march fantastically arranged. “Das Joch der Schande” continues the excellence, the guitars and keyboards prominent yet never fighting for dominance, both equally important in creating shades and textures, the nuances accentuated by the sense aura of the end of all things. This flawless black metal is ever-evolving, redefining the rules of engagement.
“Erlischt für immer nun das Licht” (The light goes out forever) is a swirling descent into madness that highlights some exceptional songwriting matched only by the intensity of “Zerrinne im Nichts” (Disintegrate into nothing) dreams are shattered and all hope is lost, the production captures the essence that is Mavorim, without compromise, brutally real, unflinching, yet without a deft touch and some moments of enchantment.
‘’Ab Amitia Pulsae’’ is an album that lingers long after it’s finished its soundscapes and ideas fester in your subconscious, begging a revisit to confirm your realization that greatness comes in the form of despair and bloodlust. Poignant, moving and their greatest work to date.
Kvad – So Old 8/10
Extolling the virtues that is pure Norwegian black metal, countryman Kvad unleashes his third account of blasphemy, the ruinous So Old.
A literal blizzard of icy cold vitriol, Kvad makes it intent clear from the opening moments of the title track. The riffs are pure second-wave insanity bought by anger and disgust rather than technical ability. The vocals are similarly vitriolic, urgent in the pouring of aggression that at times seems manic and then punctuated by long shrieks that pierce the senses along with the tremolo riffs that surge uncontrollably, always on the attack. ‘’I Long for the Fires’’ is more predatory before its malevolence spews forth.
As ‘’So Old’’ progresses, it becomes melancholic without losing its aggression, its complexity building around ideas and the arrangements that may a first appear simple that slowly build and experiment yet never deviate from the original ideals of utterly extreme metal. ‘’This was Death’’ creates a vortex that has some lurking keyboards that offer no comfort whilst ‘’Amidst Thunder and Demonic Ecstasy ‘’ is a darkened harrowing respite if there is such a thing before the storm engulfs the senses once more where your vision is lost amongst the whiteout of distortion and dissonance. It ends with Áshes of a Life ‘’ a fitting epitaph of destruction and fury, the inevitability reaching its conclusion in a final nihilistic wave of anger.
Taking the essence of second-wave black metal and making it his own, Kvad has created a familiar and new experience. He was using the foundations to create something that furthers the power and purity of the black metal. Utterly uncompromising.