You know that feeling when you’ve entrusted someone you don’t know to do a job, and you realize early on that they are capable and competent and that, for this particular task at least, you don’t have to worry? Listening to Negator’s latest effort, Vnitas Pvritas Existensia, is a lot like that. Within the first 5 minutes, you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into: furious, no-nonsense Germanic, occult black metal (with a distinct paucity of U’s in the song titles). But it’s all played so confidently and dexterously that you know you’re in good hands almost immediately. If your occult black-metal itch were an overheated carburetor, Negator is the friendly mechanic offering a new part and a 5-year warranty. Vnitas Pvritas Existensia, on the other hand, is his extensive and impressively diverse tool-kit. Let’s get that engine sorted, shall we?
Negator were formed in 2003, headed by the charismatic Nachtgarm on vocals. Through their previous albums, the band melded influences such as Watain, Satyricon and perhaps most noticeably, Dark Funeral. This resulted in three fairly impressive trips to the underworld and back, most recently on 2013’s Gates to the Pantheon. The formula is simple: thick melodies, occult/satanic themes, and extremely harsh, guttural vocals. On their own, those elements done well would have made Vnitas Pvritas Existensia a tasty, evil little treat. While Negator makes no large changes to this formula, there are a few additional elements to sweeten the pot – including a dash of thrash, and a table-spoon of death metal. But if you’ve listened to any of the aforementioned bands, you pretty much know what you’re gonna get.
With 1:30 to go on the absolutely furious “Regnvm Spiritvs Immvndii,” there’s a brief pause, before Nachtgarm launches into a sustained scream that lasts for 15 seconds. It sounds organic, and I suspect it hasn’t been adjusted or augmented. It’s scary and impressive and it highlights the dedication of the musicians to the material. Everything feels like committed and experienced musicians hurling everything they have at you. In this instance, that everything just happens to be a fist in a spike-covered knuckleduster. This commitment lends a distinct aura of authenticity to the songs on Vnitas: you can feel the blast beats chattering your teeth and the screeches penetrating your skull. Fortunately, this dedication is combined with enough variety – like the doomy third section of “Rite of the Trident, or the thunderous death metal component of “Prophets of Fire” – that the listener’s interest is always maintained.
The biggest qualms about Vnitas are that Negator occasionally sounds just a little too close to its influences for comfort. There is nothing here that Dark Funeral didn’t absolutely nail with Diabolis Interium back in 2001. Even the vocal performance is similar. Sure, there are some adjustments, but I played an occasional-metal-listening friend the two bands one after the other and she couldn’t tell the difference. While occult metal doesn’t leave a whole lotta room for distinctive sounds, Negator still feel like it needs to create its own unique aesthetic. Another problem is that while the album is never boring, at 55 minutes, it occasionally suffers from bloat, which isn’t helped by an extremely dense and loud production. Both “Pyroleophus” and “Ritvs Sex” are louder and go on longer than they have to, robbing the album of some momentum.
Despite these issues, I had a blast listening to this latest iteration of furious music from a talented and dedicated black metal band. Sure, it’s nothing particularly original. Sure, it coulda been trimmed a bit here and there. But what the band lacks in novelty, it makes up for with sheer commitment. Pretty, atmospheric takes on black metal are cute and all, but the genre was originally conceived as furious riposte to a controlling and uncaring creator. This antagonistic spirit shines strong with Negator. If occult, evil music is your cup of tea, you can sit back and relax: with these guys, you’re in solid hands.