Black metal can be a deceptive beast. For sure, there is plenty of truth in the characterisation of the genre as being brutal, unholy, evil, grim, and countless other descriptions that it doesn’t take much imagination to think of. But beneath the corpse-paint and spikes, there can often be found music of subtle beauty, with melody and majesty occurring in the most unlikely of places. Such is the case with The Sacrilegious Eradication by Singapore based Draconis Infernum. The excellent artwork may give a good initial impression of what listeners can expect, but even a short time listening to the album reveals some very surprising, and effective, sides to the band that might not be expected. Don’t let that distract you from the fact that this is still a black metal album though, with all the power and violence that such music can command.
There’s no single obvious point of comparison for the sound of The Sacrilegious Eradication, thought a few could be mentioned without seeming unreasonable. Impiety are clearly a big influence – a cover of their song “Anal Madonna” follows the album’s title track, and there’s also a cover of Ureghal’s “We Are Unholy” – but there is also a strong second wave feeling. That Draconis Infernum simply list their influences as “old school black metal” on their Facebook page is telling, and evident throughout, without once feeling dated or bereft of ideas. Following introductory track “Into The Darkness”, which features the apt sound of charging horses and weapons bring drawn, “The Blasphemous Wrath” gets things going with some very vicious, high-tempo black metal with hints of thrash. Crucially, though, the band haven’t made the mistake typical of other bands of this style, where song-writing is sacrificed upon the altar of brutality – it’s brutal for sure, but there is still plenty of melody and structure to the songs, making them far more interesting and enjoyable than many other bands of this style.
The pacing and structure of the songs is certainly one of the highlights of the album – it’s clear that a lot of time and thought has gone in to constructing songs that are memorable and strong, even if some of those movement might be subtle. The title track is a great example of this, where the song slows down slightly for its mid-section, before speeding up once more for the final third. The shifts are fairly subtle, and that helps keep the song powerful and interesting. The real strength of The Sacrilegious Eradication, though, are the melodies that occur throughout the album, often in half-hidden ways that make them all the more effective. Whilst the album has its share of strong tremolo-picked leads, such as during the opening moments of “Trampling The Divine”, it is when the melodies are in the background that they feel more stirring and strong, partially because they are not expected or obvious, like a shadow only half seen. Closing track “The Dying Light” is by far the best example of this, with so many highlights that it almost beggars belief. That the band achieve this for the almost six minute duration of the song is especially impressive, culminating in a lone guitar fading in to the sound of the howling wind, and it makes for one of the best black metal album closers I have heard this year.
The production must also be highlighted, and aids greatly in how well the album comes across. The drums being at the front of the production may not be to everyone’s liking, but it is far preferable to the weak drum sound that drags many black metal records down. The guitars have a sharp, cutting edge, though there are points when I wish the riffs would stand up stronger in the mix; the production often works well, as on the mid-tempo moments of the tile track, but on “Anathema” there are moments when the riffs suffer underneath the overly strong drums. Finally, the vocals convey the sense of hate and violence that much of the best black metal does.
One final point that must be touched upon is just how addictive this album is. I normally listen to albums maybe once or twice in a single sitting, but at the time of writing, I’ve listened to The Sacrilegious Eradication seven times in a row. It’s not the kind of album that is ever going to break in to the metal mainstream or be a fashionable flavour of the month – thank fuck – but it is an excellent 34 minutes of blasphemous, violent, powerful black metal that has enough surprises to be interesting, but not so many that it loses sight of what it wants to be or achieve.
The Sacrilegious Eradication is available on CD through Ketzer Records, whilst a cassette version limited to 100 copies is available from Aurora Australis Records. It is also available to download and stream via Bandcamp.