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Apparition Of Skulls

Sixsixsix Music (2014)
Rating: 8/10

Isn’t it incredible as to how many bands with long careers can actually pass under one’s radar! I feel that execution would only be the right punishment for me in that I’ve hardly ever set foot in the murky world of UK’s Baalberith; a band which formed in 1999, initially as Black Death, disbanded a year later, before reforming and then marching on from 2006 under the bane Baalberith.

What’s even more astounding is the fact that Apparition Of Skulls is the first album of this band I’ve actually heard in its entirety; even more bizarre that this seven-track affair is the fourth full-length composition.

I know that during their earlier stints, Baalberith were considered a black / death metal band that over the years have leant towards a purer black metal façade, but if you ask me this is still a frightening effort with deathlier aspects from an outfit I still cannot believe I know so little about.

Right from the off I’m impressed by the pummelling intensity of this wretched record. ‘Quest For Satan’ is a weighty expression of belligerence bolstered by the pummelling drums of Valefar. His presence is key here as the trio opts for that Behemoth-styled meatiness that exudes satanic imagery and prowess. The vocals are provided by a dominant figure in Razakel, who alongside Abaddon brings a vicious guitar assault too. Mesmerising solos, a war-torn arrogance and that thunderous percussion wraps itself around that vicious, yet muffled vocal fuzz to create a wall of despicable sound entrenched in tales of vehemence.

It’s clear with these guys that the genre is their oyster, and that within the vast cosmos of the extreme metal void there are numerous ways for these guys to vary their intensity. The riffs here are always chunky and militant, exuding that grey, stormy air of Britishness alongside infectious and parasitic melody which comes to the fore with the unusual patterns of ‘Battle For The Blazing Dawn’ with its hostile sneer and barrage of bass, drum and guitar. This is pure black metal hatred with death metal hints, but the melody is killer as the solos touch upon a traditional metal quality to bring the track in from the cold.

But what one must not forget about Baalberith is their talent for writing extremely heavy songs which build with nerve-shattering menace. A prime example of this creeping, sinister tumult is the title track; an utterly terrifying, aching groan of a cut with slow, pensive guitars and Razakel’s gruelling vocal gurgle.

At the other end of the spectrum, however, there is Baalberith at its most ferocious. ‘Bloodshed’ begins in pacey fashion but is punctuated with some unusual soloing, while ‘Infinite Malevolence’ is a putrid, lumbering skull-prodder harbouring some fine aspects of melancholy with those solos.

There is something extremely exciting about this volatile record and I really don’t know where the true magic lies, but as a unit Baalberith has created some excellent, raging and above all grotesque black metal that is sure to evolve into a completely different monster next time round. Apparition Of Skulls is an impressive frothing opus boasting several dimensions to get lost in.

Neil Arnold

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