I don't usually think of Canada when the conversation turns to symphonic black metal but until I received this disc for review there was little reason to put the two of them together in the same sentence. Thinking that this form of music was as foreign to them as duck pins and back bacon is to us in the USA. Well, Artep is out to change that fact with the release of a pretty solid disc that should be a great addition to your next sacrifice or black mass.
Lead singer Vultyrous who for most of the album does his Gollum on steroids impression is probably the determining factor on how much you will enjoy this band. Either you will enjoy his screeching rasp of a voice or think it a detriment to the overall disc. The first time I heard him coming out of the speakers it gave me a shudder but as I was reaching to shut it off the orchestration took hold and the contradiction in the music and his voice during the song "The Antichrist" started to become something that appealed to me in a gothic sort of way. As I listened to this song an image of Damien giving that innocent yet menacing look at the end of The Omen flashed in my mind. That is what this album is like, innocent and very melodic on the outside and evil to the max at the core.
Throughout the disc they have this ability to keep you on edge and never at ease with what they are doing. Sometimes it might be bone crunching metal with a haunting chorus like on the song "Desolate Land" or it might be the mighty thump of the guitars that suddenly break into what sounds like a carousel in the song "Crossing the Acheron". Using many techniques they never let you settle in and this disc is kind of like a good horror show in that aspect.
Ever present is the ominous keyboards that make a subtle yet effective backdrop that only adds to the morose atmosphere that Artep creates. "Armageddon" and "Black War" are both examples of where the tension is built to a fever pitch thanks to the eerie use of the keys. As always though, there is a metal firestorm swirling around these creepy backgrounds. This album is as heavy as hell and if Artep get their way all on Earth will be scorched by Hades fire with this album. Although there are times when this one sounds like a zillion other black metal offerings, there are too many examples of their unique blend to say that this band is just one of the pack. Sure the blast beats and tremolo picking is still there but never in large enough quantities to annoy.
This is an interesting album. Different in a lot of aspects and definitely a band that is willing to experiment, some of these new paths work extremely well while others may need a little more work. It is better than a majority of albums in the genre but still not what I would call a classic. It is just a very solid effort by a very solid band.
1. Birth of the Antichrist
4. Desolate Land
5. Crossing the Acheron
7. Black War
8. Eye of the Serpent/Oko Hada