I have to admit, I’m impressed with some of the black metal records so far this year. Of the records that I reviewed, I find myself returning to Ophiuchi, Wiegedood, and Havukruunu on a regular basis. Not to mention the solid output from old-school black metallers, Ofermod and Svartsyn. But, for how excited I’ve been for most of these releases, I was most excited for Limbonic Art‘s Spectre Abysm. If you’ve never heard of these Norwegian symphonic black metal beasts, you should fix that. Though there is a distinct line drawn down the middle of the band’s discography, their consistency still holds true after nearly thirty years of music. The band (or dude, I suppose) always brings something new to the table. Every album is different and each has its own unique character. But, with already one so-so album under their belts since becoming a one-man act, how will the new Spectre Abysm fare in comparison to the classics of Limbonic Art‘s past?
After a stream of incredible albums (all released between 1996 and 1999), the band hit a brick wall. The kind of brick wall that would turn a Honda Fit into a fidget spinner. That brick wall was 2002’s The Ultimate Death Worship. The result was a rough album and a breakup. After a brief hiatus, the band returned with a massive comeback in the form of 2007’s Legacy of Evil. It didn’t have the original feel of the first four albums, but it had a passion and energy that can only be Limbonic Art. And Daemon (without Morfeus) carried that same energy into 2010’s Phantasmagoria. What didn’t carry over was the band’s trademark symphonic elements. Instead, the album turned out some raw black metal with crushing riffs and a runtime about fifteen minutes too long. But, Spectre Abysm is here to try its hand at resurrecting some of those Artsy key-driven atmospheres and bring conciseness back to the fold.
This becomes immediately clear with opener “Demonic Resurrection.” This thing is an epic quest with a fervor of a snarling hellhound. Within its ten-minute length lies a pace made for a second-wave outfit and vocals that alternate between vicious rasps, uncontrollable screams, satanic barkings, throat-rattling lows, and churchy chanting. It’s all over the place but the vocal layers and fluctuations are what make this song (and this album) stand out.
While the opener’s crafted to introduce the character of the record, the closer takes it all away in an equally epic fashion. “Through the Vast Profundity Obscure” continues on from the brooding nightmare that is “Disciplina Arcani”—a song that feels as much like a satanic prayer as it does a machine crafted to bring upon the end of the world. It’s a haunting piece with one of the best vocal performances on the album. And from it, comes the closer; a cut that the rest of the album has been longing for. As it transitions from throttling drum hits and catchy guitar licks to a classic black metal drive, I’m reminded of why I love this band so much. Art has a unique ability to push you into a dark, dingy world that you actually don’t want to escape from. Instead, you find yourself trapped—and happy—in this engulfing quagmire.
Between the opener and closer, you’ll find memorable ditties in the form of “Ethereal Traveller” and “Omega Doom,” layers of keys and organs on “Triumph of Sacrilege” and “Disciplina Arcani,” and loads of satanic chanting in “Requiem Sempiternam” and “Disciplina Arcani.” Of these tracks, “Ethereal Traveller,” “Omega Doom,” and “Triumph of Sacrilege” are favorites. The former two are more about the atmosphere than the riff, while “Triumph” crowns a monstrous riff with pricking drums and keys. Not only do “Ethereal Traveller” and “Omega Doom” have standout vocal arrangements, they also have layers of melodic tremolos. What makes “Triumph of Sacrilege” so special its combination of organs and black-metal aggression. While other tracks have these creepy chords hiding in the back, this track utilizes them in a more profound way.
When it’s all said and done, Spectre Abysm is another solid outing from Daemon’s Limbonic Art. Unfortunately, the two real standouts here are the opener and closer. And the excessive use of spoken word and prayer-like chants in the back of “Omega Doom” and throughout “Disciplina Arcani” and “Requiem Sempiternam” brings to mind The Ultimate Death Worship—my least favorite release. Oh, remember that drum machine on Phantasmagoria? Well… it’s back… Thankfully, like its predecessor before it, there’s still enough to make Spectre Abysm worthwhile. It’s no shining jewel amid the Art discog, but Spectre‘s got some balls and it has a conciseness that makes for easy listens.