Originally written by Nin Chan
This is just bloody brilliant. With so many modern bands anxious to out-Varg each other in a post-Burzum epoch, the thought of another Vikernes-influenced outfit is hardly a titillating proposition. As such, the accolades surrounding this Italian trio’s debut LP made me more apprehensive than anxious to hear this record, considering the bulk of them suggested a deep-seeded connection with Burzum’s first four records. To be earnest, the world needs another Det Som Engang Var-inclined outfit like we need a Culture Club reunion. Yet, somehow Beatrik defy any and all expectations, reinterpreting a well-flogged sound with a vigorous inventiveness, synthesizing all the hallmarks of a classic sonic blueprint with distinctively individual flourishes, ultimately forging something that is many times more refined than the legions of hackneyed mimics aimlessly ploughing the same fields.
One thing that always strikes me about Total Holocaust releases is that their artists are really quite blatant about their influences (Hell Militia/De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, Enthroning Silence/Abyssic Hate) yet somehow they cleverly manage to avoid sounding superficial or faceless like Katharsis and Satanic Warmaster. Somehow, there is a very commendable, very believable honesty to much of Total Holocaust’s roster that renders their vehement orthodoxy much less reprehensible. In the case of Thralldom and Beatrik, they not only absorb their influences, they project them in heretofore unseen ways, ‘’reinventing the wheel’’, so to speak.
As such, Journey Through The End Of Life presents (thank Beelzebub) perhaps the freshest take on Burzumite introspection that this reviewer has heard since, say, Nargaroth. To Beatrik’s advantage, the music on this record is far more active and more dynamic than anything Kanwulf has inked his name on, which would greatly please those who find listening to Nargaroth an unsavory chore. There is so much cool stuff going on here. While Burzum drone is the focal center and fundamental premise of Beatrik’s sound, shades of early Mayhem and embryonic Katatonia also froth to the surface at times, suggesting that Beatrik share an artistic kinship with countrymen Forgotten Tomb, wielding a far more melodically literate and fluent style than many of their overrated contemporaries.
This enchanting sense of melody manifests itself in elegant lead guitar lines that dance atop droning, mournful, primordial rhythm guitars, providing a beauteous counterpart to the repetitious chords that bubble ominously beneath them. Some of these melodies are absolute fucking MAGIC- the opening of “Buried Among Skeletal Woods” is BRILLIANT, a weeping lead guitar moaning above sustained, heavily distorted chords, the sub-Enslaved passage that surface a minute and a half through “To Feel The End Near” is majestic and ethereal, the lone guitar passage that opens and closes “The Charon’s Embrace” is haunting and affecting, particularly when it makes a welcome reprise at the conclusion of the track. Don’t expect Xasthur doom and gloom here, either, there is PLENTY of dynamic, progressive songwriting, Beatrik moving through frosty Nordic blast sections into warmer, intimately expressed slow passages with effortless grace. Just when I attempt to poke holes in this record’s armor (the blasty intro to “To Feel The End Near” almost has a whiff of Norsecore), Beatrik switch gears and/or add subtle brilliant flourishes to the proceedings, absolutely negating any complaints I might lodge.
One of the most extraordinary things about this record is it doesn’t aspire to be cold or grim, instead there is an organic, soulful warmth at its depressive core. Instead of adopting the rawer-than-thou angle, Beatrik allows the listener great proximity to the band’s anguish and loss. The guitar tone isn’t grating or raw, the mix forsakes grit and harshness for an invitingly moody feel. Disappointingly, the lyrics are rather juvenile and rudimentary, but this is a meager complaint when the music itself bleeds with such profoundly intimate agony. This is a welcoming listen that becomes more familiar, more entrancing with every spin, one that you will find solace in more often than you might expect. Hell, I’ve listened to this about 12 times in the past three days. The finest Total Holocaust release to date? I would certainly say so, and would even assert that it is among the finest black metal records I have heard in some months. I just ordered their new record on Avantgarde, if it outdoes this one I will be most pleased!