Metal addresses death regularly, running the gamut from cartoonish violence to sobering reflection, but ultimately we do our best to avoid reflecting on the most pressing death in our lives: our own. The fragility of life and our ever-present drift toward death is sometimes thrust into one’s immediate vision, forcing them to confront the terrifying final frontier for every human being. Such was the case for Polish black metal band Blaze of Perdition, who were involved in a terrible road accident in 2013 which tragically took the life of bassist Ikaroz and left vocalist S. and drummer Vizun seriously injured, with the former temporarily in a coma. Near Death Revelations, the band’s third studio album, sees men who witnessed the death of a friend and faced their own put this harrowing experience to music.
Blaze of Perdition combines the atmospheric riffing and leads of Hellenic black metal (Devathorn, Acherontas), the shining melodic tendencies associated with Swedish black metal (Naglfar, Dissection), and a less alien take on the swirling dissonance characteristic of “avant-garde” or “third wave black metal” (Deathspell Omega, Imperial Triumphant) into something at once calming, frightening, methodical, and foreboding that reminds me of Australian black metallers Erebus Enthroned. This creates a fifty-four minute experience that often remains at a relatively mid-tempo pace to showcase guitar and bass interplay broken up by frantic and frequently dissonant sections, with musical calms and storms in constant flux.
The calm is where Blaze of Perdition excel, as many of the melodic passages have a somber and pensive tone that fits incredibly well with the record’s overarching theme. “Of No Light” sees the band in peak form, winding through a well-written series of melodies that evoke a feeling of inevitable finality instead of hope. What sounds like a black metal take on Chopin’s “Funeral March” at the 4:50 mark is at once short-lived and potent, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t add some emotional heft to an already heavy track. S.’s tortured vocal performance throughout “When Mirrors Shatter” contrasts greatly with the melodic instrumentals behind it, adding some gravitas to the proceedings whilst mercifully not sounding like forced histrionics. “Cold Morning Fears” is enjoyable, coming across as a more interesting, varied, and melodic take on Behemoth’s Demigod direction in spots. The extended midsection showcases some nifty guitar interplay as well, becoming a standout moment on the record.
By now, it should be obvious that I think Near Death Revelations is good. Unfortunately, I cannot go further up the ratings scale than that, as much as I’d like to. Opener “Królestwo Niczyje” is comprised of mostly good parts, but comes across as overlong and occasionally disjointed, with the arbitrary ambient section killing the flow of the song for a solid minute and detracting from the enjoyment. “Dreams Shall Flesh” is uneven from a songwriting standpoint, with a bland first third and an decent coda that unfortunately overstays its welcome. “Into the Void Again” loses its way in its midsection with a nondescript blast-backed passage that’s neither here nor there quality-wise, sounding like a means to the band reaching an extended but good melodic finale. While none of these songs are bad, the record only has six tracks proper, which serves to make a couple of lesser songs a fairly significant issue.
Each member of Blaze of Perdition turns in a confident and professional performance on Near Death Revelations, especially bassist Revenger whose crunchy and always audible tone works wonders in tandem with his interesting and diverse playing. Vizun’s kick drum is a bit on the weak side in terms of production, but he gives a stellar performance nonetheless. The fairly squashed mastering job doesn’t confer a whole lot of power onto the explosive parts of the record, such as when “Into the Void Again” really kicks in after the crackling sound of the intro. While it isn’t a huge bane to the listening experience, a more dynamic master would’ve served the record well.
Blaze of Perdition may not have gotten an incredibly high score, but make no mistake: these guys rebounded after a tragedy that could have easily been the end of the band and released a good record, and for that they have my complete admiration and respect. While on a whole Near Death Revelations tends towards being overextended, there are some prime cuts among the fat that I’ll be returning to throughout the year. Welcome back, gentlemen.