Crest of Darkness // In the Presence of Death
Rating: 4.0/5.0 — Rantings of pure, blood-soaked ecstasy!
Label: My Kingdom Music
Websites: Facebook | MySpace
Release Dates: EU: 2013.02.25 NA: 02.25.2013
Anton Szandor LaVey could have been writing about In the Presence of Death when he wrote this line “Each verse is an inferno. Each word is a tongue of fire. The flames of Hell burn fierce” – he wasn’t writing about this album of course, but after spending the week with Crest of Darkness, that’s a damn(ed) fitting description ov their Norwegian melodic black metal style that bears strong music, lyric and vocal similarities to the likes of Naglfar, some vocal similarities to Illnath (Narrenschiff days), has some of the same cvlt blackness of 1349 (pre their directional change) and dare I even say it… a hint or two of Cradle of Filth lurking around. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Anton LaVey’s writings, as well as the tasty subjects of death, destruction, dark knowledge, spiritualism, evil and (much to my fascination) vampirism are the lyrical basis for much of In the Presence of Death – what an intoxicating mix! Crest of Darkness boast 18 years of experience across 1 EP and 5 full-length albums. In my mind, that’s the sign of a mature band that’s far from churning out albums just because they can, and now with 6 years behind their last release, In the Presence of Death, and its fascination with the darker side of life, arrives with so much expectation you just about have to cut through it with a butcher’s knife!
Things get heated up when you hit the second or title track of the album. “In the Presence of Death” follows straight on from the “Intro” and in my opinion they really could have been a single track. It switches between mid-tempo into a straight-for-the-jugular, thrill-ride that has the dramatic effect, fiery tempo and the chaotic, colossal feel of something along the lines of Naglfar’s “Force of Pandemonium” off their Sheol album. It showcases Ingar’s vocal venom which sounds like a blend of Naglfar’s Jens Rydén and Illnath’s Narrenschiff, with hints of Dani Filth (where he still sounded Filth(y)) creeping in from time to time – to put it plainly I love it! Remarkably enough, despite the fact that Ingar’s vocals are a cacophony of roaring, soaring shrieks that ooze pure malevolent devilry, they’re remarkably easy to follow and after just a few listens you’re able to pick up on the catchy lyrics (sans a lyric sheet) that make up these demonic anthems.
Tunes like “Demon Child,” “Redemption,” “Priest from Hell” and “Vampire Dreams” brim with interesting fretwork that uses the complex song structures and tempo changes normally heard in melodic death. Their riffs and solos dance between mournful, thick, heavy and chuggy one minute, to frantic, arousing and frolicking in evil the next instant. Kjell and Rebo are both skilled guitarists with the ability to sound splendidly twisted. There’s some great interplay between the drums and guitars on “Demon Child” around the 2:48 mark along with the opening of “Vampire Dreams”… pure evil fun that I’d kill to see played live! Kjetil pounds the skins on this album and his brilliantly heavy-handed use of demanding arrangements broken up with intelligent breaks keep the intensity and the pressure on – check out “Priest from Hell”, “Vampire Dreams” and “Womb of the Wolf” for a full-on adrenalin assault.
In terms of delivering a great album, Crest of Darkness have ticked most of the boxes I want ticked and the only change I would make (other than merging the “Intro” and “In the Presence of Death” into a single track and rethinking the addition of the weirdly long and misplaced “The Day Before She Died”) would be to ditch the lousy cover art that borders on cheese with a side order of cheese [I’ve seen better flyers for the local PTA’s Halloween haunted house — Steel Druhm].
The mix is a modern work of perfection – Ingar’s vocals are the focus and selling point, but that said, Kjel, Rebo and Kjetil’s instrumentation is given plenty of room to shine – and shine it most certainly does! “In the Presence of Death”, “Demon Child” and “Welcome to my Funeral” with its almost Agalloch (Faustian Echoes) feel ended up being my favourite tracks on the album and I may never be able to extract In the Presence of Death’s lyrics from my brain, they’re so well embedded now [sigh]. Oh well I can think of worse things to have on my mind – let them stay. This creature of Hell says In the Presence of Death’s a keeper – check it out!