Everybody wants a castle. Sure, they’re drafty, expensive to heat, nearly impossible to clean, and most likely filled with evil spirits of yore that died tragic, painful deaths on the steps of the throne room. But they’re also full of intrigue, romance, tremendous architecture, and more than a few nooks and crannies for playing hide-and-seek.
You know what else castles have? Panache. They’ve got style that you can’t purchase (well, unless you purchase a castle). Anybody who owns a castle gets immediate cred from their friends. Who’s gonna mess with you now? The answer is “no one,” because you’re now master of your domain, and all those who cross your alligator-filled moat will bow to your excellence.
You know what else everybody wants… nay, what else everybody needs? Black metal to pour through the hallways of their castle. To stain the ancient area rugs of the armory. Black metal to ooze through the aquafier and infect the drinking water. Black metal to echo throughout the dank, moist dungeons. Black metal to underscore the seriousness of wine drinking. Black metal to obscure the lustful sounds of frantic love-making in large four-post beds. Black metal that provides a rhythm for bathing or doing laundry. Just fucking black fucking metal.
And, with off-kilter guitars jangling, bells clanging and cymbals clashing, we are off to occupy the great, stoic castle in the misty mountains of mystery!
With its swinging rhythms, angular, tinny guitars and keyboards hovering in the background like an apparition that just showed up to steal your wheat thins,“Oath of Malignancy” provides everything a fine soldier of black metal could hope for. Hoarse and putrid, the vocals stab eardrums like daggers, pointedly and markedly punctuating the downbeat. Midway, as the track bursts into full second-wave glory, the keyboards continue to carry the haunting melody, doubled at times by the guitar and often fronted by a jangly and distorted bass. “Faster,” cry the lords of war. “Faster, damn you!” But Moenen of Xezbeth will not heed their cries as the track dissolves into an extended fade-out heralded by heavy cymbal work and culminating in a drawling, droning, almost hypnotic dirge of an outro. “Layeth the beast upon this altar of death.”
Interestingly, the interlude, also known as the 6th track, is a near perfect soundtrack for a noir horror film in black & white. Layers of keyboards, effectuating different electric incantations of wind instruments combine with basic rhythms, bringing to mind the beginnings of an execution ceremony. Perhaps a ritual in which human flesh (long pig) of a heathen villager will be consumed by the high lords. Essentially, to make a point as sharp as a dagger used to de-tongue an infidel, these guys can make moody music, and that fact isn’t lost in their more driven black metal.
Across the whole of Ancient Spells of Darkness…, the mood is somber — not depressed, but certainly one of melancholy. The production is muffled, particularly on the title track — not in a way that detracts from the music, but one that enhances it by melting all the tones and melodies and sounds together like a sword that was once broken and then reforged. The album is a sanguine adventure in castle-y black metal, which we here at Last Rites are oft very fond of. So hang your burgundy drapes on the wall, place the archers in their lookouts, and feast upon blackened flesh.