Ghostly Aerie Coven – Bird of Prey Review

You can get an idea of an album based on its cover. And, uh, wow. Three-eyed literally-horned Forlesen owl (who has fallen on hard times) feeding the head of Christ with a chalice of nails? A whole lotta fuckery to unpack here. Why does Jesus need nails? Of all people, I would assume his iron intake is higher than others. Before I go off the rails with more edgy unfunny comedy, the most important question is: what the hell kinda music is this? Well, if you honed in on the bizarre blasphemy and guessed black metal, ding ding ding! You win bragging rights at AMG Headquarters, which means you get to scrub the toilets for two months while Holdeneye tells you great jokes and we chug hobo wine in your honor! Yay you. Speaking of unfunny comedy, does Ghostly Aerie Coven nail their breed of black metal? Or will you prey for a better album?

Ghostly Aerie Coven is an Italian black metal trio, offering its firstborn full-length Bird of Prey like a lamb for slaughter. The band professes an adherence to the Finnish interpretation of the blackened arts, citing Sargeist, Horna, and Behexen as major influences. The chemistry between its three members1 is further explained by their nearly trinitarian philosophy: Bird of Prey is an “alchemy of three monads, distinct but at the same time working in unison.” Ghostly Aerie Coven furthermore professes a love for all things abstract, as reflected in their artwork. That being said, I didn’t expect Bird of Prey to be so standard. If you’ve heard a black metal album before, you’ve undoubtedly heard Ghostly Aerie Coven: dense and raw tremolo, blastbeats, and ghostly shrieks. As such, while there’s little offensively bad about this trio’s first full-length, there’s very little good either, leaving it in the no man’s land of “yep, this is definitely black metal.”

That’s not to say that Bird of Prey doesn’t have its moments. The guitar tone is tasteful, managing density and layers while still feeling raw and scathing. Tracks like “Rhyme of the Crimson Monarch” and “Horus Rises” feature riffs that peak through the dense palette in a maddening spiral pattern that matches the cover’s madness. “Ambassadors of the Storm” and “Giger Enthroned” make good use of their layers in dueling tremolo passages, while calm strumming emerges from the murk. True to the style, Ghostly Aerie Coven pays solid homage to Finnish greats, so if you’re looking for something to fill the Rituale Satanum– or Satanic Black Devotion-shaped hole in your life, Bird of Prey will satisfy, if for a short time.

What grounds this Bird of Prey is that there’s little to no variation present across its forty-four-minute runtime. Dynamics are nearly absent, as tracks revolve around a single riff or chord progression that repeats with only slight variations for the entirety of four to seven minutes. Repetition like this is solid if there’s an established atmosphere or mood,2 but Ghostly Aerie Coven cannot decide. Aside from an emphasis on density, Bird of Prey’s offerings sit at an uneasy crossroads between emotional and ominous without committing to either. Thus, these limbo passages feel nearly identical across the album’s eight tracks. Blatantly sloppy offerings like “Nyctophilia” or “My Tongue is the Spear of Longinvs” feature lagging drum tracks beneath the boring stringed attack with unintentionally arrhythmic double bass. Nearly every cut is doomed by excessive repetition,3 and with no variation throughout, Bird of Prey’s forty-four minutes is a downright chore.

Based on the promo and the artwork, I had high hopes for Bird of Prey. Ghostly Aerie Coven’s lyrics are aptly abstract, but it’s the most uneventful black metal I’ve heard in a long time. While yes, only a few things are offensively bad, there’s nothing that sets it apart from other artists. In the aural embodiment of tedium, their debut is a poorly written, toothless black metal offering with only density and stereotype to offer. While it has its moments of clarity, these Italians refuse to capitalize upon them, leaving this Bird of Prey more of a birden.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320kbps mp3
Label: Vacula Productions
Release Worldwide: March 31st, 2021

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Setian of Goatfire, Gibil of Evilizers, and SadoMaster of Griverion.
  2. See Trist’s Hin-Fort or Ancient Moon’s Benedictus Diabolica, Gloria Patri.
  3. If I had a bragging right for every time I thought “Ambassadors of the Storm” would conclude, I’d be hobo wine king.
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