Now, this is a weird one for Doc Grier. Back in 2014, I had the pleasure of reviewing Provocator‘s debut record, Antikristus. At the time, this one-man, black metal outfit from Slovenia sought the rhythms and execution of Norway’s ’90s scene. The approach was raw—but not too raw—and the delivery was somewhere between the aggressiveness of Gorgoroth, the minimalism of Darkthrone, and the “upbeatness” of Nattefrost/Carpathian Forest. And, after all these years, the record still has staying power for me. What’s so weird about this? What’s weird is that Antikristus was Doc Grier‘s very first review with AMG. So, as you can guess, I couldn’t pass up Hellscream’s follow-up full-length, Satan, Chaos, Blood and Terror. Though he’s served as the band’s sole member since its 2012 start, Hellscream has hired Kurgaall‘s Lord Astaroth to man the mic. So begins the Year of Grier. Let’s see how this shit pans out.
As one can guess from the album title and artwork, Provocator is still a black metal band. They still pledge allegiance to lo-fi production with wide-open dynamics. And they continue to spew, spit, and shit the horned beast down your throat. But, boy, have the vocals changed. While Hellscream’s vocals on Antikristus were standard, they did little to interfere with the riffs and added weight to the mood. They stayed to the back, where they belonged, and let the chaos from the instruments take hold. The opposite occurs in Satan, Chaos, Blood and Terror. Lord Astaroth may have diversity (black rasps and shrieks, low barks and growls, and old-school Tom Araya screams) but the album’s mix doesn’t do him (or the songs) any favor.
This becomes clear right away with opener “General Commander Baphomet.” Though the riffs have energy and the aggressiveness of a band like Gorgoroth, you can’t fucking hear them. The vocals are so goddamn loud in the mix that I hardly notice the bass, drums, and guitar hiding somewhere in the back of the song. The rawness of the song does give it a cool, old-school feel, but (even with repeat listens) I still have a hard time not wincing at the schizophrenic rasps, growls, and ear-piercing screams.
Now, I don’t wanna say it gets worse as the album progresses, but it does. “Satan Chaos Blood and Terror,” “Iron Horned Baphomet,” and “Black Seal of Damnation” have some of the loudest, most-disjointed vocals on the album. The vox on the title track and “Iron Horned Baphomet” show even more diversity than the title track, but with the added bonus of getting louder in some spots and almost disappearing in others. As if Astaroth gets closer and farther away from the mic during the recording. Unfortunately, this might be one of the most distracting things I’ve ever heard.
But, if you can get past it, there are some memorable passages in songs like “Anno Vulgaris MDCXXX,” “Satanic Storms of Mayhem,” and “Black Seal of Damnation.” The first opens and closes with a slow, swampy guitar lead, while the bulk of the song is a fast-picked stream of hate. “Black Seal of Damnation” bludgeons your brain into a black pulp before it sneaks away with a wry smile and a sinister gait. But “Satanic Storms of Mayhem” is probably the song that has the best balance of vocals and instrumentation. It has a creepy vibe, some old-school Panzerchrist grunts and growls, and a slinkiness that works from beginning to end.
While Provocator have become more adventurous in the vocal department, Satan, Chaos, Blood and Terror is a letdown. Don’t get me wrong, Lord Astaroth is a fantastic singer and Kurgaall rules. But his approach on Provocator‘s newest release doesn’t work. That said, there are a couple of decent moments here but the bad outweighs the good. In particular when it comes to “Iron Horned Baphomet” and the unlistenable “Goathammer Militia.” Unfortunately, Satan, Chaos, Blood and Terror is difficult to listen to again and again (even with a twenty-six-minute runtime), and it’s a letdown when compared to its predecessor. At first, I was excited to get a chance to review the follow-up to my AMG debut. But, now, I’m bummed.