These days it seems difficult to find the black metal of old; the kind that Hellscream, the sole member of Slovenia’s Provocator claims to play. Even the originators of the dark, raw, and minimalistic style have chosen to delve into experimental, avant-garde, symphonic and punk-driven crust that take the primitive and simplistic foundation of the 90s to bigger and (sometimes) cleaner heights. That being said, these new hybrids have created some incredible material and the old walls of Scandinavian black metal have burned down along with several churches. Sometimes, though, my mouth waters for some nasty, old-school black metal. Maybe no one plays this style anymore because it has all been done before. Maybe artists saw the limitations of 90s black metal and recognized its fate. Regardless, it can’t hurt to have some every once in a while, can it? Well, Hellscream is here to prove it can hurt – just a little.
If the opening to Provocator’s debut, Antikristus, was any sign of what’s to come, I’d say leave that shit in the grave where you found it. “Let Jesus Fuck You” is seven-seconds of mood killing silliness ripped directly from The Exorcist. I get the attempt at creating an evil atmosphere, but stop. This does nothing but start the album off on the wrong foot. Thankfully, this ends quickly and they get the ball rolling with “Unholy Rape of the Holy Whore;” a fitting title and a strong opener reminiscent of Gorgoroth tracks “Destroyer” and “Incipit Satan.” This song showcases Hellscream’s old-school black metal assault, his venomous barking vocals, and his desperate, caveman-like drumming style (maybe a little less refined than performances by Frost).
“7 Storms of Eternal Damnation” and “Conqueror of Blasphemous Revenge” guide the album into an old-school Darkthrone groove that includes slow, heavy-as-hell sections emphasized by Hellscream’s hard-hitting drums, his savage and blood-spewing vocal deliveries and some early-Bathory solos. These two tracks help to lay the foundation for songs like “Profanation of the Cross” and “Black Star Lucifer,” which both begin slowly and deliver a very Gaahl/Tom Warrior vocal performance. Very shortly, they explode into a thunderous barrage of drums and guitars. Hellscream nails his style down with these two tracks via a groovy drumming style and variations in vocal delivery that reference black metal greats of old, most notably, Nattefrost.
Excluding the fact that there really isn’t anything new on this album that you haven’t heard before, its DR 10 rating provides a warmth that makes it sound impressive. I could really enjoy this album on vinyl. However, after closer inspection, the obnoxious background noise that “haunts” most of the songs is, in actuality, the sound of Hellscream inhaling. It sounds like the ten-pack-a-day wheezing of a 90-year-old hag. While not a deal breaker, it’s awfully distracting. Another problem is the high-volume mix of the odd-numbered tracks, while the even-numbered tracks are much quieter. I won’t bash too much in hopes that this is a peculiarity of the promo and not the actual album. However, I’m not going to lie, it’s fucking annoying and makes me biasedly favor the odd-numbered tracks. I’ve heard albums gradually increase in volume in order to create a feeling of desperation and uncomfortableness, but this is bad.
Overall, Provocator has put out a solid release that – while not original – is a huge step forward from their Darkness Is Rising EP. However, while it harkens back to the old style, my thirst isn’t completely quenched.