Babylonian mythology has provided inspiration for a good few metal band names – Marduk, Tiamat, Absu, erm, Ereshkigal (cheers Wiki) and of course the subject of today’s scrutiny. Blood of Kingu kicked off in 2005 after the dissolution of Hate Forest, and contains the former members of that black metal entity along with two of their colleagues from Ukrainian nature-worshippers Drudkh. Debut album De Occulta Philosophia sounded just as you would expect given this pedigree, with the added novelty of throat singing. Sophomore Sun in the House of the Scorpion brought back metal growls to complement the glottal chants while improving on the songwriting and adding variety. Would they continue this upward trajectory on latest album Dark Star on the Right Horn of the Crescent Moon?
Well, let’s start with the good news, as is traditional. Second track “He Who Is Not to Be Named” is a hammering tune, with tasty riffs, an interesting arrangement, and nice interplay between the twin guitars. The addition of horn and timpani* works really well here – they’re used sparsely enough to maintain their impact while adding a sense of drama and grandiosity that complements the underlying music (to save typing: you can take it as read that anything negative I say about this album does not apply to this track).
Alas it’s mostly downhill from here. The same tempo is used throughout the entire record, save for a couple of tracks employing a slightly faster pace; I honestly think they must have broken their metronome and thought, “fuck it, if we throw in a couple of atmospheric interludes to break things up a bit no one will notice”. And they would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those pesky blastbeats. As it is, Yuriy Sinitsky hammers out the same pattern over the majority of the album. It’s not like he hasn’t got anything else to offer – when he breaks out of blasting, he plays some tasty stuff, and we’ve heard him mix it up more on Sun in the House of the Scorpion, so I don’t know what the thinking was behind this monotony.
A certain level of repetitiveness can be tolerated if the riffs and atmosphere are right – Drudkh have been doing this pretty well for the majority of their career after all. Yet this album contains the least exciting riff ideas the band have committed to tape. There’s little creative progress on show, and while Blood of Kingu don’t tend to write bad riffs, the standard is quite consistently below that set on the previous record.
The horn does not reemerge save for a very brief appearance in the final track, while the timpani never quite have the same power as in “He Who Is Not to Be Named”, merely blending into the background. Some of this has to do with the arrangements, but also the album’s production: everything is pretty squashed at DR6 (only the two quiet interludes push the overall value to DR7) so when the timps do reappear there’s no room left for them to make an impression. It’s a shame, as otherwise the recording is very good – certainly the best sound they’ve managed so far.
Dark Star on the Right Horn of the Crescent Moon is a frustrating record just crying out for more diversity. I doubt I’ll return to it other than for “He Who Is Not to Be Named”, and interlude “Prayer to the Gods of Night”: a fantastic piece of sound design that reminds me of the eeriness present in Delia Derbyshire‘s Legend of Hell House soundtrack. It’s sadly telling that this sub-two-minute mood piece is one of the highlights of the album.
* I am assuming these are timpani – please comment if in fact they are some obscure Tibetan ritual folk drum or other