When’s the last time you heard a new “traditional” black metal album? These days it feels like every new black metal release is either symphonic, melodic, dissonant, atmospheric, post, or some variation thereof. What happened to the good old days of blast beats, tremolo riffs, and Satan worshippin’? That’s exactly what Norway’s Eternity seem to be asking with sophomore album To Become the Great Beast. Frontman Evighet began Eternity as a solo project in 2003, going on to release debut Bringer of the Fall in 2006 before disappearing into parts unknown. Yet this doesn’t mean he ever left black metal, and indeed it seems Evighet has simply spent all these years toiling away in the darkness. The promo blurb for Beast claims that this record is his “life’s work,” his attempt to “create the ultimate black metal album.” To assist in this venture, he’s enlisted the help of Blasphemer (Aura Noir, Vltimas, ex-Mayhem) on bass, along with members of Nocturnal Breed and Den Saakaldte. But is this trvly the masterpiece it strives to be?
Hardly, but you can’t fault them for not knowing their source material. As expected, Beast checks all the boxes of 90s black metal in a way that sounds like everyone and no one, though I guess I’m reminded more of Gorgoroth than anyone else. Blast beats are virtually ubiquitous, songs are filled with piercing tremolo riffs, and the gruff, raspy vocals proclaim their allegiance to Beelzebub through lines like “Lord Satan, deliver me!” The only real thing that sets Eternity apart is the inclusion of a few thrashy moments in songs like “Bringer of the Fall,” which breaks away from its sharp tremolos to lurch forward on ravenous rhythms. “Horror Vacui” takes a similar approach, with its midsection dominated by a predatory, thrashing chug that offers a welcome bit of variety at the album’s halfway point.
Lack of originality aside, the band do come up with some pretty decent riffs. The problem is that, anytime you hear a riff that makes your ears perk up, you can guarantee it’ll be repeated until any semblance of pleasure withers completely. Many of these songs follow the same pattern: introduce main riff, repeat main riff until you’re sick of it, play a few riffs that aren’t as good as main riff, return to main riff, end the song. “Te Nostro Deum Sathanas” is a perfect example of why this doesn’t work, as even though its main riff is actually quite good, its repetition causes the track’s four-minute runtime to drag. Opener “Sun of Hate” has the same structure and likewise falls flat, only this time it’s exacerbated by a weaker main riff and the song as a whole feeling unfinished. It doesn’t help that some of the songs in the second half, such as the title track, feature longer runtimes and less notable riffs than prior tracks. Nor does it help that Evighet’s unwavering vocal delivery becomes monotonous by album’s end.
Fortunately, Beast forgoes an attempt at trve kvlt raw production and instead opts for a pretty decent sound, with ringing chords and raging guitars coupled with battering drums, all produced in a way that feels powerful without being overly compressed. Likewise, Eternity do manage to end the album in a fairly satisfying way. Penultimate track “Empire” features crunchier riffs and ends with a twirling melody that’s smoldering, glorious, and the only one of its kind on the album. Closer “Nine Magic Songs” likewise stands out with its mid-paced riffs and curling, weeping leads.
Still, even that’s not enough to make these 43 minutes feel worthwhile. At the end of the day, Beast fails not because it’s unoriginal, but because it doesn’t successfully utilize the elements of its influences. This feels less like black metal and more like a facsimile of black metal, something that adheres tightly to the sound while possessing none of the danger, excitement, or inspiration of the genre’s early acts. Eternity haven’t produced something bad, they’ve produced something empty, a hollow shell that, aside from a few decent riffs and ideas, offers nothing compelling for the listener. I’m sure good “traditional” black metal could still be made today, but To Become the Great Beast isn’t it.