Label: Dark Adversary Productions (NSFW)
Blood Of The Free Youtube stream: Link
It should go without saying by now that the Australian underground black metal scene is currently one of the best in the world, but just in case you’re not up to speed: the Australian underground black metal scene is currently one of the best in the world. It wouldn’t be too surprising if you were unaware of this, though. The bands that are the core of the scene are pretty obscure, and releases are very limited. It’s a shame really, as there’s a lot of superb black metal being made there that is more than the equal of what any other country or scene can boast.
At the heart of this movement is Azgorh, the main-man of Drowning The Light and vocalist for Eternum, as well as running Dark Adversary Productions. The label has released many of the best Australian black metal records of recent years, as well as releases by iconic bands such as Satanic Warmaster and Mutiilation. Eternum though is mainly the project of his former colleague in Drowning The Light, Nightwolf, who writes and records all the music. It’s worth noting this, as at no point does the music feel as if only one person has written it; it’s full of little flourishes and features that flesh out the songs fully, giving them character and keeping them interesting.
Eternum’s previous album, Veil Of Ancient Darkness, was superb, showcasing atmospheric black metal. Whilst that’s normally a phrase associated with music trying to invoke the spirit of nature, Eternum conjure up images of war, musically bringing to mind early Graveland, late-80s Bathory, and Burzum by turns, whilst always possessing a strong sense of character and individuality. This is not war in a bombastic, overblown sense, but more gritty and grim, where a man is only as strong as his sword-arm. Second album, Summoning The Wolven Spirit, carries on in that style, with 50 minutes of black metal that belongs to an earlier age. That is not to say it sounds dated, far from it, but rather than it brings to mind an older, medieval time, belonging to a land filled with barbarians, old gods, honour and war. The slow, atmospheric introduction to first track Under The Banner Of Barbarism is the soundtrack to a battlefield of old, with haunting wolf howls in the background before the pace picks up and Azgorh’s vocals enter. They are sung as a deeper growl than on some of his other works, and it suits the music perfectly, as do the lyrics, dealing with themes of war, honour, and death.
The music itself across the whole album is best described as heroic, with great guitar leads and just the right amount of melody, with tasteful keyboards complimenting it and enhancing the atmosphere. There is also an aura of melancholy throughout the music though, as if subtly reflecting that all wars come with a cost, and that not all heroes will return home, yet there is still a sense of defiance about it despite this. It’s mostly played at a mid-pace tempo, though there are some notable up-tempo moments – the opening of This Empire Where The Sun Never Sets is furious – and the songs are all long enough to have time to develop and grow. .Acoustic interlude tracks help keep things fresh, preventing the black metal tracks from becoming too overwhelming whilst adding to the atmosphere and feel of the album. The production helps, too. It has an open, relatively clean sound for black metal, just the right sides of listenable and kvlt without sounding overly produced or too raw. Picking a stand-out track seems pointless; each song is strong, yet they work best together as an album, and to listen to them outside of that context would be robbing them of some of their considerable power.
Overall, the album is another in a strong line of releases for Dark Adversary, and another superb example of the Australian underground black metal scene, even if there is something distinctly European about its sound. It’s no clone of past glories though, but an album that recalls an older age in multiple senses, and is well worth tracking down.