I was relatively surprised to find I wasn’t yet acquainted with Crimson Moonlight. Party to the ‘unblack’ metal scene emerging in the latter 90s in Scandinavia, their Swedish roots stretch back to the infertile earth of 1997, associated with the relative popularity of the likes of Extol and Antestor in their unorthodox fusion of black metal with Christianity. The 19 years since their first demo has only seen 2 studio albums and Divine Darkness is their first in 12. This leaves question marks over their contemporary relevance and lack of recent experience with the project: would they be able to harness the anachronistic spirit of their unblackened origins, wherein Christian black metal was almost as sacrilegious as black metal itself?
Divine Darkness doesn’t sound remotely fresh, which I suppose answers that question in the affirmative. They still peddle 90’s era black metal with a touch of melody, though there are few death influences brought to the fore for this release. It’s surprisingly brutal, with pummeling percussion and vicious vocals which fluctuate between shrieks and growls. There are a few bits which demonstrate their blackened death working well, such as in the opening of the title track: an airy trem-picked lead overlays the groovy rhythm guitar, accentuated by Gurra’s skillful drumming. Passages effectively transition from groovy death riffs to those which are more melodic on “The Suffering,” and the down-tuned, moody intro to “Dusk” evidences an additional facet to Crimson Moonlight‘s repertoire. The sawing intro to “I Am Tribulation” grabbed me too.
The observant among you may have noticed that all these examples sit at the start or in transitional periods of their respective tracks. They’re the moments wherein the song-writing is at its sharpest and most diverse, and the genuinely excellent musicianship shines. Gurra behind the kit deserves a particular mention, as does Johan’s bass work (pleasingly audible in the mix). They lead me to conclude that Divine Darkness is best when it’s dynamic – and to conclude that this characteristic is conspicuously absent for the remaining majority of the album.
Aside from these highlights, the album becomes an indistinct haze of aggressive blast beats and forgettable riffs layered on top of each other, infinitely exacerbated by the production which is about as clear as Donnie Darko‘s plot. I think dreary is as good a descriptor as I can conceive, indicating the ennui which inevitably set in as I bullied myself into the requisite numerous listens. There’s really not much more I can say other than you’re a stronger person than I if you can listen to this for more than 6 minutes without your eyes glazing over.
Ultimately, does Divine Darkness stand out from the many other black metal, death metal or blackened death metal bands in existence? Does it recapture that perverse sense of rebellion from when Christians were first making black metal? The answer is a resounding no and a resoundingly permanent deletion from my library.