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Séance (2014)
Rating: 8/10

It seems only right that Australia’s Pestilential Shadows should have their fifth full-length album issued on Halloween 2014.

The black metal combo have been plaguing the community of New South Wales since 2003 and have been busy ever since, releasing their debut platter Embrace After Death (The Fate of All That Lives II) in 2005. As you’d expect from a band that has been around for more than a decade, Pestilential Shadows has had its fair share of line-up alterations with vocalist / guitarist Balam being the only original member.

The opus kicks off with the brief atmospheric introduction ‘Throes’ which melts into the disputatious grate of ‘Mill Of Discord’, an initially slow, grey clamber of stark percussion and simplistic waves of pasty guitars which eventually evolve in hyper-speed blasts of vocal gusts and rancid haste. Yep, it’s formulaic black metal to some extent but delivered with such a frenzy and passion that it cannot help but succeed.

Pestilential Shadows offer up straightforward black metal delivered with ferocious rasping vocals and discordant guitar segments which slow into grainy, spiked divisions hinting at minimalistic melody. The epic ‘Fragments’ shows why the band is so revered, this being a fine exhibition of powerful gleams and precise instrumentation incorporating melancholic melody and abrasive undertones.

Nothing beats a slice of powerful yet gritty black metal that successfully marries that raw, primeval presence with weight and ‘Fragments’ is a thing of beauty; building slowly from its cold chamber into a rattling, bestial invasion of the senses where the drums are executed as an almost coarse haze coating atmospheric keyboard wafts. From here the band slithers into ‘Sorrow Of Tongues’, an equally abysmal expression of granular black metal with a foundation of stirring drum flicks, jarring chords and jangling intensity with a miserable, scornful vocal smirk at the helm taken it into icier, pacier waters.

‘Hymn Of Isolation & Suicide’ continues the trend, another gargantuan construction blending pace and mid-tempo eeriness, Pestilential Shadows being one of the only black metal acts I can listen to even without the presence of the vocal arrogance. When those sneers introduce themselves the are the chilly icing on an already frosty cake as they languidly snarl their way through the wiry mire of the pallid rhythm section – the track acting as a doom-laden soundscape of unembellished misery leading to more uptempo gloom by the infectious drum taps.

With the title track Pestilential Shadows stride with confidence onto even more exuberant shores, loping with arrogance from bleak grey guitar waves to evolve into another melancholic plod bolstered by that distant thunder drum and scathing backbone. And as the brief ‘Expire’ closes the album by way of an almost minimalistic degree of nothingness, Ephemeral slides to its halt, leaving the black ice to thaw until the next time.

Neil Arnold

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