There’s something to be said for toiling away at your craft for a long period of time, sacrificing
goats and virgins your time, energy, and the relationships in your life in order to hit that Holy Grail of recognition and notoriety. Regardless of the degree of success, you can’t deny that a bit of respect is to be had for those who refuse to quit. Dutch black metal troupe Cirith Gorgor have been at it since 1996, with drummer Levithmong as its sole original member after various line-up shuffles. After a five-year absence, they’re back with Visions of Exalted Lucifer, and although I respect their ability to carry on despite the line-up changes, I’m having a hard time recommending this after spending a solid week listening to it.
Wasting no time whatsoever, “Salvator” blasts forth militantly with some tasty Gorgoroth-worshiping riffs and incredibly spacious sounding vocals from returning throat-shredder Satanael. One of the first things you hear is how clearly you can hear bassist Waltyr, laying a much-needed slab for guitarists Marchosias and Valefor to lay their cold riffs upon. However, one thing that Gorgoroth does that makes their music more potent is their ability to keep their songs somewhat brief. “Salvator” is an agonizing almost-eight minutes of the opening riff repeated over and over, which grates on the listener considerably.
Another icy-cold bone of ill contention is the lack of variety in the structures of the songs themselves. The majority of Visions of Exalted Lucifer consists of the the same riffs in each song being looped without any form of hooks. “A Vision of Exalted Lucifer,” one of the shorter songs at just under five minutes, feels like double the length because of this. When you combine the ridiculously long song lengths of both “Rise of Purification – Vanished from This World” and “Into the Nameless Void”—both almost hitting the eight-minute mark—I’m left wanting something to happen. Thankfully, something does happen near the end of “Into the Nameless Void”: a pretty damn cool, almost-tribal drum fill by Levithmong. It’s also the only interesting part of the whole album.
There are two things that work in Visions of Exalted Lucifer‘s favor, however. The production, though loud and a bit fatiguing, did a great job with the overall clarity of the instruments and vocals, balancing the mix expertly. As a bassist myself, I appreciate when care is given to the bottom end, and Waltyr is a damn good bassist, adding desperately-needed color and heft to the album. The artwork by Metastazis is absolutely gorgeous to admire and worship; I just wish the same could be said for the music, which left me cold and bored. Gorgoroth, Marduk, and many others who play this style are usually effective because they get their message across in less than half the time it takes Cirith Gorgor to go anywhere, and that’s if their music actually went anywhere at all.
And that’s exactly what I wanted to experience: frigid black metal that carves and scars like the best of them. While Visions of Exalted Lucifer is an unforgiving, fast, visceral record, it’s also flat, unimaginative and not very memorable. Rather than picking up my axe for battle, I’m gonna sit this one out and wait for another war machine to come along.