Several of us here at Last Rites share an affinity for castles, whether it be sprawling towers lunging towards a moonlit sky on an album cover or tales of laying siege to a mighty fortress in the lyrics of a power metal band. If it’s got stone battlements, wrought iron gates, and a sworn oath to protect the keep at all costs, then we have a passing interest to say the least. And when castles combine with black metal, there are more than a few of us that get really excited. However, if you asked any one of us to define what exactly “castle black metal” is, you would probably be met with a barrage of different interpretations and examples. The synth blasts on Emperor’s In The Nightside Eclipse paired with the glaringly obvious cover art would probably be offered, as well as the classic medieval black metal of Godkiller or perhaps the symphonic black metal stylings of Tartaros. In more recent times, the (relatively) stripped down approach of Krolok’s Flying Above Ancient Ruins or the more modern epic stylings of France’s Véhémence could fall into this category. All of the examples are very different musically, yet embody something that yearns for a time long since past. There’s a spirit to it that can’t quite be defined: you know it when you hear it, when you feel it echoing through the damp, moss crusted corridors of an ancient stronghold.
Two of the three tracks from the 2016 demo are represented on the compilation, beginning with “Shrine Of Rotten Bones.” It’s surprising how clean it sounds, especially for a demo: the guitar tone shimmers through light distortion as the drums patter lightly like a mischievous poltergeist over the arid frost of the ethereal synths. The haunting softness of the sound draws parallels to Bekëth Nexëhmü – Olkoth aren’t so much about power and loudness as they are creating a captivating atmosphere. Even the blast beats are played lightly and precisely as the dynamics are allowed plenty of space in which to provide subtle accents. The main riff of the song dances across time structures over the blank canvas of blast beats, creating an unsettling but not unpleasant aura. This isn’t to say the drums are monotonous, they work well across the song as they change with the mood and accent the riffs when needed – in essence, they serve the songs well, providing flavor and subtly behind the melodies of the guitar. It’s apparent pretty early on that the guitar is the driving force for Olkoth as the melodies flit and swoop and dart across the backdrop of keys and drums on “Ancient Black Flame.”
As mentioned previously, the Treasures Of Necromancy part of the compilation starts with an ambient intro track that, in the context of the compilation, actually serves a purpose in separating the sight shift in production. It’s interesting to note that the latter demo actually has a slightly rawer bent to it – there’s a touch more grit to it, the synths are pushed a little further back, and the cymbals are a touch dirtier – however, the same ghoulish atmosphere remains intact. The vocals rasp across the spectral melodies like echoes of forbidden spells being cast from atop the north tower amongst a most turbulent tempest.
The final track is a new one, not included on either The Immortal Depths nor Treasures Of Necromancy. “Demonic Prophecy” serves as an epic conclusion to the compilation. While the songwriting style doesn’t change much, what is almost a take on progressive riff construction allows for an expansive castle for Olkoth to haunt. Working within their own parameters, Olkoth deliver the feeling of soaring above of an ancient mystical fortress from beyond the veil of death. “Demonic Prophecy” bookends the compilation well, and fits the flow of tracks, helping The Immortal Depths & Treasures Of Necromancy feel more like a complete work than simply mashing two demos together. While this is essentially what the record is, it avoids the cut-and-paste feel that many compilations suffer and is a captivating, fluid listen from beginning to end, fully immersing the listener in the haunted shadows of castle ruins.
There is no location information given for Olkoth, aside from the fact that they hail from the United States and aren’t to be confused with Olkoth from Columbia, South Carolina. So they probably aren’t from Colombia. But they could be! Who really knows? Are there any castles in Columbia? Who really cares? Olkoth made a couple of great demos, and The Immortal Depths & Treasures Of Necromancy is the best way to grab ‘em both!