originally written by Erik Thomas
Much like other 2010 black metal releases by the likes of Necronomicon, Thulcandra, Ragnarok, Nyseius and even respected veterans like Dark Funeral and 1349, the sixth studio album from Sweden’s Setherial isn’t going to change the face of black metal. However, it certainly adds a thorn to the barbed crown of Christ, adding to the pain and suffering of all Christendom.
Always sort of regarded as Marduk- or Dark Funeral-lite, Setherial’s slightly more melodic take on blistering, wall-of-noise black metal has rarely deviated despite numerous line-ups. The formula of razor-sharp tremolo-picked blast beats, slicing harmonies and militant marches glossed with all sorts of expectedly cryptic black metal rasped lyrics appears to have changed little since my last exposure to the band (2003’s Endtime Divine). Still, there is enough seethingly melodic vitriol here for those of the unlight to keep themselves grimly blackened.
But it’s the band’s subtle use of melody within the black metal framework that makes Setherial slightly more listenable than the hordes of like-minded acts. For example, after the rather chaotic and all-over-the-place opener “A World In Hell” and the discordant march of the title track, the third track “The Mournful Sunset Of The Forsaken” delivers what I came to expect from this band and what I enjoy the most about the genre: searing, epic melodies delivered with a relentless tenacity and veteran confidence. “The Devils Devouring Eye” follows suit, with a lengthier, more broken-up example. A very slight synth presence also keeps things suitably haunting and eviiiiiil. The final real highlight to the album is the superb 8-minute closer, “Enemy Of Creation”, where at 4:40 or so, Setherial delivers one of the more memorable riffs of their career: sheer, harmonic but blistering bliss and a cathartic, excellently paced climax that actually reminded me of Keep of Kalessin.
The thing is, other than those three slightly above-average tracks, the rest of the album is simply proficient, by-the-numbers Scandinavian black metal, and there’s something enjoyable about that, no doubt. But the likes of the mid paced “Subsequent Emissions From A Frozen Galaxy” and shrill melodic vehemence of “Thoughts Of Life They Wither” and “Celestial Remains Of The Cosmic Creation”,though feral, are simply as vanilla as anything released in the genre over the last 5 years. And while I can respect the stalwart grasping of rigid paradigms in your chosen genre, especially when delivered with this level of rock-solid competence, the fact is that I’m still more likely to reach for Funeral Mist, Deathspell Omega or more recently, Nightbringer for my black metal fix, as those just deliver a little more creativity.