One dark and stormy night many years ago, some guy was in his attic listening to his vinyl copy of Bathory’s debut when he thought to himself, “I could make music like this!” It didn’t end there. It happened again. And again. And again. Now it’s 2018, and the number of bands that have taken influence from first wave black metal is so great you could probably build a bridge to Hawaii made solely from their goathead T-shirts. Diabolic Force is one of those bands, and if you thought this Brazilian trio were here to breathe fresh life into the style, you must have missed the fact that their new album is called Praise of Satan.
Nonetheless there is a hint of promise here. Given the fact that their only other album came out 8 years ago, one would assume Force has had plenty of time to nurture these ideas. Likewise Force’s members bring experience from a plethora of other Brazilian acts, including Atomic Roar, Farscape, Virgin’s Vomit, and Whipstriker. In that regard, I suppose this project is the band’s attempt to step back and create music that’s as rudimentary as possible. I didn’t think it was possible to come up with simpler riffs than the early works of Bathory, Hellhammer, and Sarcófago, but Force have somehow found a way. This is blackened thrash metal so primitive it hunts woolly mammoths in its spare time. On the black metal evolutionary chart, Praise has barely started walking on two legs and is still communicating via grunts and chest beatings1.
This simplicity is evident right from opener “Satan’s Power.” Beginning with (what else?) a recording of a Black Mass, the song rides the same hammering drumbeat for its entire duration, while the “riffs” consist solely of strummed chords that move arbitrarily up and down the fretboard. “Black Light Damnation” follows a similar formula, adding a smidge of variety with its doomy opening before granting listeners five minutes of the same rhythm and riffing pattern. Many of these nine tracks feature only two or three riffs, and tempo changes within songs occur rarely, if ever. It’s like a repeat of Morbid Slaughter’s awful blackened thrash, and the production certainly doesn’t help. In an effort to sound raw and trve, Praise ends up sounding faint, muddy, and weak. The guitars are fuzzy and lacking power, and the raspy vocals sound like they were recorded in a garbage can with the microphone placed five feet away.
And yet at the same time, there is stuff to praise here. The solos are surprisingly piercing and melodic, offering a welcome counterpoint to the otherwise dull guitar sound. Taken as a whole, these 31 minutes also offer a surprising amount of variety. Early highlight “Cross in Fire” eases the pace to a confident stomp that recalls a slow Venom song, supplementing its simple yet effective progression with echoing leads and twirling clean picking. Closer “The Circle” also features a slower pace, while shorter cuts like “Doom Child” and “Rotting Lips” charge forward on frantic riffs that would actually sound quite potent in a more polished context. Sadly, even these short songs aren’t wholly enjoyable, as they end up feel sorely underdeveloped with their sub-2 minute runtimes.
Ultimately, while the underground metal fan in me wants to blast Praise of Satan while pounding Michelob Ultras in my Z-shed, the logical part of me knows this just isn’t a very good record. The songwriting is mind-numbingly repetitive, the production hits about as hard as a wet noodle, and many of the “riffs” are so simple they can hardly even be called that. Meanwhile, the better riffs are trapped in songs that are short and underwritten, and even the intentionally raw sound fails to conjure any sense of atmosphere. I suppose those looking for a more stripped down Invocation Spells may find more to like, but for the rest of us, even the power of Satan can’t make Diabolic Force worth listening to.