I became intrigued by Thy Darkened Shade from a very interesting interview I read recently. So when the opportunity came up to review their new album (Liber Lvcifer I: Khen Sedjet) I jumped right into this dark realm of satanic black metal full of wonder and excitement. As with many BM bands pushing the boundaries of the genre, Thy Darkened Shade feed off of good ol’ Watain and Dissection for their melodic, riff-centered approach. In this case, Thy Darkened Shade utilizes some Sworn to the Dark-era Watain in their calculated riffs and melodies as a foundation to expand on (hell, even the clean production handled by V. Santura reminds me of that album). And though my head might be lodged so far up Watain’s ass that I hear them all the time, they clearly have made an impact on the scene (Andy, I promise you’ll hear them this time). The brainchild of songwriter/guitarist/bassist Semjaza, Thy Darkened Shade focuses on the “Almighty Riff” to delivery some diverse, atmospheric black metal that takes what they did on debut Eternvs Mos, Nex Ritvs and blows it to smithereens. I know what you’re thinking, a Greek black metal band that incorporates some Scandinavian influences without even a trace of Rotting Christ in the mix? How un-Greek of them.
While Eternvs Mos, Nex Ritvs was a good offering of chaotic 1349, black ‘n’ roll, and thrash, it suffered from three major drawbacks; it lacks decent production, has no bass presence, and was cursed with monotone BM shrieks. If it could be compared to dining out, it was the equivalent of eating at a fast food joint. Conversely, Thy Darkened Shade’s second offering is more like sharing exotic food and fine wine with Azazel, Lucifer and the rest of the gang, followed by brandy and rich esoteric conversation. Album length alone gives you the impression that this release is meant to be above and beyond the debut (42-minute runtime versus 78 minutes).
Success in the band’s new progression comes from its ever evolving riffs, atmospheric layering, satanic choruses, and impressive guitar/bass work. While opener, “Holy Lvcifer,” drapes you in its satanic darkness, tracks like “Elixir of Azazel,” “Nox Profunda,” Liber Lvcifer,” and “Daemon Phosphorus” are meant to pull you deeper into the dark – yet magical – atmosphere of Thy Darkened Shade’s blackened philosophy.
Semjaza’s songwriting builds each song from the ground up, layering riff after riff on top of accenting blast beats and barking vocals. He not only shows you that practicing your chromatic scales can be important, but that they can kick ass too (checkout the buzzsaw maelstroms toward the end of “Nox Profunda” and “Liber Lvcifer”). Beyond his ability to produce some tight and effective scale-sweeping wankery, he can also floor you with some massive 1349 chops (“Drayishn-I Ahriman o Divan”) or lull you into a coma with his beautiful acoustic passages (“Nox Profunda,” “Saatet-ta Renaissance,” “Liber Lvcifer,” and “Deus Absonditus”). But, it’s Semjaza’s bass playing that really makes these songs shine. Thumping away on 6- and 8-string bass guitars, Semjaza lays down some haunting rhythms and finger dancing bass leads (the best examples being the Alcest-like moments of “Or She-einbo Mahshavah” and “Saatet-ta Renaissance”). And if that wasn’t enough layering, The A (yep, that’s the vocalist’s name) supports these structures with a diverse mix of black metal shrieks, death growls, and clean choral chants. Without this vocal diversity, this album would suffer greatly.
Unfortunately, this new found atmosphere makes for an album that is just too fucking long. It’s rare to find a 78 minute album without moments of filler and redundancy. While not boring, there are definitely moments of filler throughout and the typical BM drumming does little to add to the rest of the band’s performance. Unfortunately, it’s the length that keeps me from scoring higher. Every song suffers from repetition for the first few minutes before finally mixing it up and finishing strong. It’s just too long to keep my attention and that makes multiple listens of this album a chore. Maybe Liber Lvcifer II will result in a more trimmed experience next time and cement Thy Darkened Shade as the “acausalnecrosophic black metal” (their words, not mine).