In the deep corners of the dark internet (not the “dark web,” because who even understands what in the hell that is) sit angry, middle-aged men and maligned teenagers championing the cause of trve kvlt black metal. They champion the ideas of hatred and violence shouting, “keep black metal evil.” It’s a position as humorous as harkening back to a time in America when Charles M. Schultz sat in a CBS studio office sipping his midday martini and pitching the idea of a Peanuts Christmas Special to the executives at CBS. “No,” they cried, “this soundtrack simply will not do, Chuck. Jazz is the devil’s music, and this is a good Christian country. We simply cannot have this influence broadcast to good, hard-working, communist-hating Americans.” Charles M. Schultz walked out of that meeting confident and proud. Refusing to change the soundtrack composed by Vince Guaraldi. The jazzy undertones were crucial to his telling of the Peanuts Christmas Special. Eventually, CBS executives got over it—caved on December 9, 1965—and perhaps the greatest, most emotionally realistic holiday special was finally shared with the public.
The executives at CBS (racist and anti-Semitic undertones aside), much like Team Trve Kvlt Hate & Violence aka Keep Black Metal Evil, LLC, had a core misunderstanding of the art form of music. Yes, music is a communication-based medium. The sounds, even in instrumental jazz, are meant to convey feelings, emotions and, in higher forms of jazz, colors, levels of consciousness and transcendence that would make levitating Yogis jealous. And that form of communication isn’t limited to the intellectual world of jazz—it’s available all the way down to the most base forms of punk and garage rock where humans sweat, pogo and bang into each other, channeling their inner demons as a form of orgasmic release. But, despite those facts, music is not static. Jazz is not merely one set of predetermined sounds. Rather, it’s a living, growing organism (and also America’s greatest gift to the world). Similarly, punk is a living, breathing organism that evolves throughout different generations and their struggles against what they view as injustice. As it is for all forms of music.
Blaze of Perdition has taken up residence in the latter camp of musicians that refuse to build walls and fences between their original sound and their future. Now on their fifth LP, the core of the band (XCIII and Sonneillon) rarely work outside of this project. (Their side project Oremus has been on hold since 2011, allowing them to focus all their attention on Blaze of Perdition.)
For their latest effort, which is very much a matured version of 2017’s Conscious Darkness, The duo have added DQ (not Dairy Queen) on drums and M.R. on guitar. Despite being new additions to the quartet, the compositions on 2020’s The Harrowing of Hearts seem very much a group effort. What shines is the undertone of goth rock that lurked in the underbelly of Conscious Darkness. Here, Blaze of Perdition has allowed that style to slither front and center, building entire compositions around rocking choruses and goth bridges. The result is an album that sounds massive, dark, polished and unique, utilizing the greatest asset of dark wave: an undulating, clean and well-defined bass.
“What Christ has Kept Apart” is a great example of this uniqueness. While blast beat black metal a la Watain or Rotting Christ can be found among the ashes, the true heart of the tune is a melodic and furious take that is built upon a foundation of a blackened heart. After a minute (or so) of an amplified black and goth-type section, the tune thins out, letting guitars waver and tremolo in a fury melancholy. Around the four-minute mark, the rock begins to bleed through by taking the pace into an anticipatory loop of post-punk riffs with layered, blackened vocals. A brief dark wave-inspired bridge leads to the most standard of Polish black metal sections before double bass and cleaner vocals take the tune to a new plane of existence, one more hellish than the first wave black metal as the composition is draped in velvety mid-range tones and massive guitars.
Elsewhere, tunes like “With Madman’s Faith” contain revelations in clean, chorus-laden guitars played over heartwarming drums that would be at home in the reawakened goth scene of LA. False crescendos decay into an incensed, frenzied verse broken up by rolling floor toms and staccato guitars playing looping time signatures and dissonant harmonies that create a texture akin to crushed up MDMA and glass ingested orally. Similarly, the unsettling “Królestwo Niebieskie” allows dissonant guitars to strum out an off-kilter call before unleashing the flood gates. All the while, the precisely tuned drums roll ever downward in anticipation of the purely rocking sections that are to follow. Blasphemous vocals flood the speakers while guitars pound out a jagged, moody goth progression over drums that are downright danceable. Not only is it a brave and experimental choice but, it’s altogether successful. Single guitar lines bend and whine, relying on drawing out emotion from the listener more than scaring their friends and parents with speed or recording effects.
What Blaze of Perdition does, and has done, so successfully is intertwine mood with rabidity. The vocals remain profane in delivery and sacrilegious in nature, while the music remains complimentary in styles not often dragged into the black metal realm. Odd, considering goth sensibilities and goth nihilism shouldn’t lie that far outside the realm of black metal. With The Harrowing of Hearts, Blaze of Perdition proves that the two should go hand in hand, skipping every joyously towards the end and wondering what happens in the afterlife. Permitting the vocals to be understood—sometimes even overlaid with spoken word—and letting the guitars create rhythm and vibe allows the music breathe and open up more paths for the listener to travel deep into the heart of the music. It’s something more bands outside the Polish (and Greek) scene might want to take note of, because Blaze of Perdition appears to be doing so more successfully compared to what Behemoth has attempted recently.