Revenant Marquis – Below the Landsker Line Review

Nearly all raw black metal reviews that aren’t through prestigious publications like Ravv Blakk Blvg and Trve Kvlt 4 Lyfe seem to always begin with some sort of disclaimer (i.e. “I know raw black metal sucks, but…”). Frankly, this is no different. I get it: raw black is a polarizing take on the style. While normal black metal is already kvlt enough, the rawer it gets, the kvlt-er it gets. For instance, it’s nearly impossible to obtain a digital copy of a Lamp of Murmuur album, Orgy of Carrion hardly has any online presence, and don’t even get me started on those guys who exclusively sell digital albums and vinyls alike for €666 each. Filled with anonymity and schlock, it’s difficult to discern anything when it’s buried under ten feet of barbed wire and broken glass. Can we sift through the debris with Revenant Marquis’ fifth full-length?

Revenant Marquis is a raw one-man black metal act from Wales, where the title of his latest album Below the Landsker Line originates.1 Sole member S offers a unique aesthetic: while older 2018-19 releases feature your typical kvlt “corpsepaint in the dark with fire or some shit” look, 2020’s Youth in Ribbons offered a black-and-white picture of a smiling young girl, a trend continuing into the fifth offering. With all this in mind, if you’re expecting your ears to be flayed by stingingly icy riffs a la early Darkthrone, Ildjarn, or Axis of Light, prepare to be disappointed. Revenant Marquis instead focuses on a spectral interpretation true to its name, featuring your typical black metal stereotypes channeled through a heavy fog of Coldworld-on-steroids fuzziness. Riffs, while lo-fi, are warmer and less scathing, allowing freer movement from the synths and echoey drums, as well as the vocals’ ghostly howls to lead us through the darkened wood. While Below the Landsker Line certainly will not appeal to everyone and is an overall uneven listen, it’s still better than your dad’s raw black metal.

Revenant Marquis offers its best in an amalgamation of melody, pummel, and spectral atmosphere. Tracks like “Children of the Grand Abyss” and “Geist Unbaptized” are solid takes, relying on a saturation of synth, guitar, percussion, and vocals to provide the nearly Victorian occult atmosphere its cover art suggests. It’s immersive, unique, and powerful, utilizing solid repetition to create this aural environment. There are two distinct halves showcasing Revenant Marquis’ variety, as “Haverfordwest” and “Children of the Grand Abyss” are comparatively gentle affairs of heavier synth emphasis, while “Geist Unbaptised” and “Under the Hand of the Master” are packed with dense blastbeats and tremolo. For fans of past work, Below the Landsker Line is a far more listenable affair with its emphasis on ghostly atmosphere rather than scathing rawness. This may be a detractor, depending on listener taste, but the emphasis on subtle melody and atmosphere is much more palatable.

Below the Landsker Line excels at warmer tones, but its consistency across its six tracks is shoddy at best. While the two halves are solid in their own rights, it creates false expectations when interlude “Beibl” fades. Speaking of this interlude, it does a fantastic job creating the atmosphere Revenant Marquis sets out to accomplish, but it’s far too short-lived to contribute. Similarly, “Dianc” is an interesting and unique black metal instrumental, but the suddenly clear, folky melodies are jarring compared to its blasting predecessors. “Geist Unbaptised,” while a fun solid romp of blasting blackened shenanigans, goes on for too long, making “Under the Hand of the Master” the shorter and sweeter of the two due to its very similar approach. And finally, y’know, Below the Landsker Line is raw black metal.

It’s difficult to foresee a time when raw black will land a spot on any lists, but Revenant Marquis has nonetheless created a uniquely interesting take on the style. While the album at large is dreadfully uneven, its focus on mysterious atmosphere while adhering to the tropes hits the sweet spot, amplified by distinctly solid performances all around. That being said, it’s still raw black metal, and Below the Landsker Line’s warmer and more melodic approach can either attract or repel listeners, especially compared to its predecessors. It still needs a disclaimer in its uneven listen, but I don’t feel as awkward when it’s done this well.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Inferna Profundus Records
Release Date: March 21st, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. A language border between southern Welsh-speaking areas and northern English-speaking areas in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire.
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