One of the best things about Halloween in Canada is the excuse to wear corpse paint in the hospital check out the costumes everyone is wearing. Some folks keep it simple with unusual hats or ties. Some kids wear Iron-Man suits or My Little Pony onesies. But there are always a few who go full horror: blood, gore, the works. Many pull it off, but some people just look ridiculous. It’s often not a lack of commitment or a creativity deficit. Rather, to nail something truly intense and memorable requires more than just “being scary.” It requires foresight, craft and intelligence. These thoughts came to mind while listening to Black Beast’s debut album, Nocturnal Bloodlust.1 These Fins are frightening, no doubt, and their commitment to their craft is obvious and palpable. Although this is their first full-length, these guys have been around since 2002, with plenty of time, an EP, and a split record, to hone their craft. But is there more to this effort than just cheap scares?
Like Michael Myers, kitchen-knife in hand, bearing down on an unsuspecting teenage pair in flagrante delicto, I will put you out of your misery. The answer is no. There just isn’t enough here beneath the occult exterior to hold the attention of any black metal fan for any length of time. Black Beast plays an extreme and uncompromising form of war metal that eschews any hint of contamination by instruments that cannot be strummed or beaten. It’s aimed squarely at the trvly kvlt among us, and that’s fine; we have our own table in the AMG cafeteria and that’s the way we like it. But good music — even of the most extreme variety — still requires more than just an evil atmosphere to be compelling. Nocturnal Bloodlust fails because it just doesn’t get the basics right. And if the handle of your weapon is slippery, penetrating blows fail to land, regardless of intent.
The most immediately noticeable aspect of Bloodlust is the distinct lack of memorable hooks. Unlike other raw or war metal, like Black Cilice‘s most recent effort, where catchy moments weren’t the point, Nocturnal Bloodlust emphasizes the guitars and riffs strongly. The issue is that songs like “Your Cold Grave” and “Unholy One” sound like a million others you’ve heard before, with key changes seemingly telegraphed before they occur. In tracks such as “Words of Leviathan,” the guitars often feel trapped in a purgatory of fatigue, unable to rouse themselves from the stupor of single note changes. When songwriting is this predictable, the mind drifts, and I often found myself wishing Bloodlust would end so I could get back to Wilderun.
This dullness in song composition is exacerbated by a brutal and unnecessarily compressed mix, which highlights the vocals effectively, but bulldozes everything else. It may be raw and trve, but it also does nothing to enhance the riffs or the guitars. On top of that, the compression is both headache and fatigue-inducing, which made me want to stop the record and pop an aspirin rather than forging on into the depths of Hell. On the plus side, the band does sound suitably committed and frightening, and its dedication to the material obvious: howls abound, growls are ferocious and an occult, evil atmosphere is impressively maintained throughout.
Nevertheless, Nocturnal Bloodlust is both a disappointing album and a frustrating one. These Fins are dedicated to the cause, and no one could accuse them of blandly phoning this material in. Rather, the quality of the craft simply doesn’t match the dedication of the musicians, in either conception or execution. With so many talented and innovative black metal acts out there, it’s simply no longer enough to be brvtal and scary and hoping these will cover the cracks of sub-par material. Quality songwriting and production will always come first, and on this particular album, these guys just haven’t delivered on these key facets. What we’re left with is flavor over substance; costume over personality. Like a moody kid on Halloween, Black Beast tries to be scary as hell but forgets to bring the bag of treats.