#FOR FANS OF: Symphonic Black/Doom/Death Metal, Dimmu Borgir, later Emperor
After a ten-year hiatus, this Atlanta-based Black/Doom acts’ second release is pretty much the shining example of why taking the time to compose and bring out the best of the material is wholly welcomed. Augmented strongly by a stellar keyboard-led attack that fully evokes grandiose imagery and bombastic rhythms, these highly-enjoyable rhythms are at the centerpiece of the band’s work by offering a sprawling landscape upon which to hand the rest of the work here with the guitar rhythms and drumming running along those foundations. Employing a strong mixture of both mid-tempo chugging that straddles the border between Doom and Death Metal with its low-slung rhythms and chunky riffing alongside the swirling tremolo riffing in truer Black Metal, this one manages to make for a pretty explosive mixture here as the three distinct styles come together quite nicely, ranging from strong blasts of lavish Black/Death Metal to heavy mid-tempo Doom outbursts and melody-driven grandiose pieces that feature a strong symphonic backdrop throughout. These varied approaches also allow quite a nice change-up as well in giving the different vocals here, from the raspy shrieks and clean croons alongside deeper growling and even eerie whispers to feel like a natural progression and part of a cohesive whole here, which is quite an impressive accomplishment here. Sure, some of the tracks could really be trimmed down some since there’s epic arrangements that do tend to go on far longer than it really should here and makes the album laborious to get through on the second half, but overall there’s a lot more to like here which makes this a great deal of fun with some solid tracks here. Instrumental intro ‘A Prelude to Darkness’ offers the kind of grandiose keyboards and majestic orchestration that make for a grand opening piece and sets the stage for the dynamic proper first-track ‘Auri Sacra Fames’ which bridges the absolutely grandiose keyboard work and haunting clean vocals with choppy, chugging rhythms and swirling Black Metal riff-work that makes for a stellar impression here with the grandiosity and charging rhythms working nicely in sync with each other. ‘The Clarion Light,’ ‘Autumnal Lament’ and ‘The Acolyte’ all move away from those strong rhythms for a simple series of tight chugging patterns overlaid by the swirling keyboard patterns that keep the light charging tempos going along strongly here for an overall enjoyable effort. The more symphonic ‘The Withering’ offers a strong symphonic melody against the charging mid-tempo rhythms building underneath as the mid-tempo paces drives into a stellar chunky Death Metal rhythm with the tremolo riff-work and fine keyboard work as the dueling rhythms build to an epic finish here in one of the album’s highlight tracks. Both ‘Aegri Somnia’ and ‘Seraph Enslaved’ follow a nice tightly-wound mid-tempo crunch with the rather softer keyboard arrangements coming through in a strong series of melodic rhythms while charging through the final half with blistering riff-work and lighter keyboards for a decent-if-unspectacular offering. ‘Infinitus Dolor Amoris’ is a decent interlude of acoustic guitars and majestic symphonic keyboards which create a rather nice breather for the following few enjoyable tracks, while a later attempt with ‘Prologue’ comes off as quite redundant considering the barely thirty second running time here. ‘A Love Benighted’ gets this back into the grandiose symphonic keyboards and heavy chugging brought along by the series of finely-tuned tremolo-blasts that charge through rather explosive rhythms that fully brings about one of the best tracks on the album. ‘Epilogue (A Defiant Succumbing)’ captures that spirit and energy in a short, barely two-minute package that comes off nicely, while the title track features some fine churning rhythms over the sprawling Doom notes throughout to give this a strong, fitting ending note. Still, as good as this is it’s mainly undone by the longer length here that really doesn’t need to be.