originally written by Chris McDonald
Beginning its existence as a fairly ho-hum side project of Horna guitarist Shatraug, Sargeist has gradually evolved over the years into a fully fledged black metal band, and the results of this evolution have proven to be markedly more impressive than the output of the project’s early days. Let the Devil In is classic black metal done right in the modern era and forgoes any attempts at pretension in favor of riffs, riffs, and more riffs. And Satan, of course.
Let the Devil In is a very traditional, orthodox take on black metal, but the songwriting is engaging enough that the expected bends and turns in the tracks are still highly entertaining and memorable. Sargeist really nails the melodic urgency that defined the classic bands of the Second Wave; every track here is packed with frosty licks and dark, forlorn melodies that strike the perfect balance between sinister atmosphere and empowering heaviness. There’s plenty of grim one-footed blasts to be found, but the band also puts groovier mid-paced segments to effective use, and even throws in some thrashy beats that bring projects like Orcustus and Grand Belial’s Key to mind (such as the infectious chorus to the title track). The drumming and raspy vocals largely follow the lead of Shatraug’s brilliant riffing hand, and well-timed tempo changes and searing vocal hooks help to accentuate compositions that are already compelling and catchy. While Shatraug’s riffs are obviously the straw that stirs the drink, its clear how much the addition of a full line-up has helped in bringing the Sargeist vision to fruition. The various instruments play off each other in a manner that really strengthens the impact of the songs, as does the record’s crisp and energizing production job.
If there’s one complaint I could muster for Let The Devil In, its that it’s a fairly one dimensional offering; all of the songs are cut from basically the same cloth and run close to the same length, and there’s nothing in the way of interludes or other atmospheric touches to spice up the pace. But while every track here follows a similar formula, the consistently high quality of the riffs and melodies makes this a very easy pill to swallow. The songs may be structured in largely the same manner, but the variety of riff tones in Shatraug’s grab-bag is anything but disappointing, and the range of tempos employed keeps the flow of the album interesting without feeling disjointed. (The slow dirge of “Nocturnal Revelation” is particularly menacing.) It’s obvious that great care and attention to detail was put into composing this material, and the straightforward nature of the album from a song-to-song basis is easy to forgive when the music is so strong as a whole.
It may not be taking black metal in any unheard-of directions, but Let The Devil In is easily the strongest Sargeist release to date and is one of the more fresh and entertaining melodic black metal albums to be released in recent memory, and anyone with an affinity for grim hooks and sinister riffage would be well advised to check it out immediately. Throw this one on and howl at the moon, folks – this is what black metal is all about.