I have developed a habit of self-inflicted synaesthesia when listening to music: immersion in the musical experience inevitably translates into a visual experience that usually results as a reinterpretation of an album as a piece of art history. [1] Funeral Mist’s Hekatomb, however, defies such simple classifications while getting to grips with this unruly black metal beast. The sheer quantity of content packed into the album’s 43-odd minutes (along with its thematic content) makes a Hieronymous Bosch vision of hell appropriate, but that still doesn’t cover everything.

For instance, the eerie bass intro and accompanying guitar stabs that “In Nomine Domini” kick the album off with conjure the avant-garde surrealism of something Dali may have dreamed up, but this swiftly dissolves into a Lissitzky or Rodchenko constructivist composition [2], full of regimented, martial fervour. This is in sharp contrast with the high-gain, treble-rich repetitive riffs inducing hypnotic states (à la Burzum) on “Shedding Skin”, a piece that sublimates emotion like a Rothko abstraction. But then there are also the virulent, chaotic leads that pepper “Cockatrice”, existing in sharp opposition to its low-end swells or the gentle, sensitive keys that echo in the background before taking centre stage for a haunting bridge section, all combining in an aural madness that only Van Gogh’s thick, spiralling daubs can illustrate.

Where other albums lately distil down to one – perhaps two – images in my mind’s eye, Hekatomb is a veritable museum in its own right, crammed with conflict, beauty and creativity. And this is what makes this album so impressive: multi-instrumentalist Arioch has somehow managed to craft a record that merges multiple styles and techniques without the usual progressive and over-intellectualised trappings that usually accompany such undertakings.

“In Nomine Domini” (In the name of the Lord) just listen to this album…

Hekatomb is immediately engaging, always exciting and constantly evolving. Factor in its authenticity (no over-produced editing of string noise or snarls, which are splendidly represented in the opening moments of “Hosanna”) and its no-nonsense direct approach and you have a black metal record par excellence; while less ambient than its acclaimed predecessor (2009’s Maranatha), it still reeks with atmospheres of palpable dissatisfaction, and the orthodox, anti-Christian lyrical content celebrates death, destruction and disorder without falling prey to the straight-up thrash stylings of so many of its Swedish counterparts. Hekatomb may be ambitious, but it achieves this ambition with beautifully executed music. A strong contender for black metal’s Album of the Year, indeed.

Hekatomb Track Listing:

01. In Nomine Domini
02. Naught but Death
03. Shedding Skin
04. Cockatrice
05. Metamorphosis
06. Within the Without
07. Hosanna
08. Pallor Mortis

Run Time: 43:01
Release Date: June 15, 2018
Record Label: Norma Evangelium Diaboli

Footnotes:
1. For example, Watain’s recent Trident Wolf Eclipse reveals itself in the mind’s eye as one of Turner’s stormy seas – a chaotic maelstrom of natural fury; Dimmu Borgir’s Eonian, by contrast, is more like a baroque study in light and shade by Rembrandt: contrived, contrasting and richly rendered. Very rarely, the cover art of an album matches my vision; recently Behemoth’s The Satanist has managed this with Denis Forkas’ stirring artwork – an album that shares many characteristics with this one; such as vocal delivery styles, changes in tone and pace and overall atmosphere of seething irreligious dissent.

2. Incidentally, this image summarises Arioch’s other 2018 offering – Marduk’s Viktoria, in his guise as frontman Mortuus.

This is Dayv. He writes stuff and makes being an aging goth cool again. Actually, nobody can do the latter, so let's just stick to him writing stuff. Predominantly about black metal, tattoos and other essential cultural necessities. He also makes pretty pictures, but that's just to pay the bills.