“Love at first sight” is an interesting concept: a basic mammalian response formed by some pesky, involuntary biological and cognitive mechanisms. And I wonder, can music elicit something similar? Can you, perhaps, start loving a record during the first minute of a sample track? Can this kind of appreciation evolve into a long-lasting bond with a piece of music? The début by Finnish black metallers Sacrificium Carmen, Ikuisen Tulen Kammiossa, had that sort of a struck-by-lightning influence on me, courtesy of its crunchy riffs and atmospheric passages that came in an apparently tightly knit, minimalist but tastefully decorated black metal package. Suffice to say, it took but a few minutes of being subjected to their music for me to become completely infatuated.
As it turns out, the effect is real to a fault. Indeed, like every relationship, after just a short period and a couple of listens of Ikuisen Tulen Kammiossa, the nasty things bubbling below the surface became obvious while romantic idealizations and infantile fascinations gave way to bitter disappointment. I realized that I’ve been listening to fairly conventional (post) second wave Scandinavian black metal à la Ragnarok, Sargeist, or Taake – a style tied to its origins openly and rigidly. It also became apparent that the drumming and guitars were between “eh” and “OK” at best, that the diverse and skillful vocals were somewhat distracting, and that the songwriting barely held itself together over the record’s already short span (33 minutes). The familiarity of the music, the combination of dark but soothing harmonic layers with the usual monotone assault of blast beats paving the foundations, actually played a large part in the immediate, love-at-first-listen appeal.
It was the metal equivalent of “beer goggles” clouding my thoughts, lowering inhibitions, and robbing me of a chance to hear the grim reality. But even when approached with a disenchanted mind, Ikuisen Tulen Kammiossa is not without any real appeal. Even though unequivocally unoriginal, it’s still solid, raw Finnish black metal sung in an interesting and strangely tickling native language, framed in sounds that rarely try to explore grandiose or spacious avenues and instead confine themselves to the archetypal, traditionally lo-fi limits of the genre. So much is clear right from the bat. “Lucifer” opens the album with raspy power chords, fuzzy tremolos, and possessed screams, subjecting the listener to a Stockholm syndrome inducing beating. Unfortunately, that welcome, dazzling effect wears off pretty quickly and the songs start melding into one another, with just a few restrained sections and tempo changes reminding the inattentive listener that a new song has indeed started.
As if the musicians were aware of their own shortcomings, they tried to break the mold by employing subtle stylistic shifts and slower sections that are actually better written than the faster passages. Thrash metal’s influence can be heard on “Öisen Haahkan Liekessä” (guest vocals by Horna’s Spellgoth) and “Pimeän silmän goetia,” while “Kaaoksen käärme” has some folkish, Moonsorrow-like elements. Elsewhere, it’s when Sacrificium Carmen go full-Gorgoroth (“Nemesis” and “Julman Sanasta”) or turn up the melodies and harmonies on cool romps such as “Verialkemia” and the odd, almost doom metal “Yön kasvot,” that they actually sound the best. With the longest song clocking at just over four minutes, the tunes never become too tedious, but there are still signs that anything longer would have been a disaster. It’s hard to shake off the feeling that the band has issues with writing memorable material capable of holding the listener in a constant state of submission. The musicianship, Satanism-ahoy lyrics, and production values don’t improve the situation and are all are on then expected level of quality for this type of release. Solid and par for the course.
On the whole, Ikuisen Tulen Kammiossa lacks any significant impact and comes off as an album that would be nigh impossible to distinguish from the vast ocean of facsimiles. Sacrificium Carmen don’t do anything especially wrong, but they also fail to rise above the rest. So what compels musicians to revisit raw black metal, such a tiresome and rehashed genre, time and again? I have only one explanation: it must be love! And for a brief moment, they fooled me into loving them too.