Percussion like hammer blows to the temples. Ringing, discordant tremolo melodies. Driving presence in riffs that inspire acts of violence and venery in equal parts. Unholy atmospheres, all shrouded in a thick fugue of hatred. Even the acoustic passages seep poison, like wounds that refuse to heal. Vocals dredged from a circle of hell Dante wasn’t man enough to visit. These are just a few of the initial impressions I put to paper while first listening to The Black Consecration, the fifth album in Noctem’s fifteen-year career. And even now, nearly two months and multiple play-throughs later, these are exactly the thoughts and feelings still inspired by one of the darkest and dirtiest black metal albums of 2019.
While the overall sound is a fair departure from Noctem’s prior releases – more raw barbarism, less polished death/thrash overtones – the final result is still seething malevolence in spades. The Black Consecration (pre-order a CD copy here) represents what Mayhem could have been, had they stuck to their guns after the mid-‘90s tragedies and not veered off on experimental tangents. Thankfully, with the recent release of Daemon (read out review here) the Norwegian institution have rediscovered their initial trajectory, but Noctem are a case in point of how even stylistic evolution does not mean losing touch with what matters most. And The Black Consecration hammers home the perfect black metal argument: death, darkness and despair. The simplicity of the approach – especially in relation to 2016’s Haeresis, with its bombast and exaggerated technical pomp – is a fitting one, leaving no doubts as to this band’s intentions. Nearly two decades of live performances have honed their instrumental prowess, but rather than a display of unnecessary virtuosity, the group have decided instead to deliver quality songwriting and it’s a choice I can only applaud.
The title track fairly summarises the impressions listed above.
The other shift Noctem embrace is a less varied stylistic selection: as a whole, the album is a singular entity, but each individual cut exists in isolation as an entirely acceptable microcosm of this. The no-frills devastation of “Coven” is recognisably related to the implacable intent of “Court of the Dying Flesh,” and even the more groove-laden “Let That Is Dead Sleep Forever” carries a similar stamp. Beleth’s harsher vocals (the occasional doubling of growls on this rasp is a welcome addition) play a huge role in this continuity, but the unhinged drum work of Voor is as much a signature on The Black Consecration. The production of the percussion section is, sadly, a touch tinnier than it could be – but the marked departure from over-produced death metal influences make this an easily forgivable oversight.
The standout moment on The Black Consecration, for me, has to be “Sulphur,” though; as aptly named as “Dichotomy of Malignancy” may be, the demonic, hellish soundscape they craft on the album’s official video track is just as apt.
Album closer, “Dichotomy of Malignancy” is appropriately named: passages of driving ferocity offset by pauses for breath, but all dripping venom.
In all honesty, Noctem’s previous releases did not find much airtime on my playlists. If I wanted blackened thrash, Aura Noir and Skeletonwitch did it better; if I wanted blackened death, Belphegor or Behemoth satisfied me better. The Black Consecration, however, easily amends this oversight on my part, gaining the Iberian quartet a firm position in my listening library. On this album, Noctem successfully marry the Swedish guitar fury of Marduk with the misanthropic virulence of Immolation in an orgy of evil savagery and destruction not entirely unlike that of Watain. The departed legends of black metal, from Trondr Nefas to Dead to Jon Nödtveidt, would be proud.
The Black Consecration Track Listing:
01. The Black Consecration
03. Uprising Of The Impenitents
05. All That Now Belongs To The Earth
06. Let That Is Dead Sleep Forever
07. Court Of The Dying Flesh
08. Dichotomy Of Malignancy
Run Time: 43:30
Release Date: November 1, 2019
Record Label: Art Gates Records
Even shot in black and white, you can feel the yellow, poisonous fog leeching from your screen to choke you.