Label: Blackened Death Records
Pope Richard seems like the kind of guy who’s never satisfied unless he’s creating something. As well as running Blackened Death Records, he’s also the creative force behind over a dozen different bands, the latest release from which is the self-titled album as Takhisis. The album serves up 40 minutes of crushing occult doom, full of catchy hooks and powerful riffs, but more than that, it’s possessed of a dark, subtly seductive atmosphere, full of clandestine sorcery and secret gatherings. It also feels like one of the most confident, assured records that Pope Richard has put his name to, and considering the consistent quality of his records, that’s quite something.
Despite starting life as two separate EPs – the first of which was for a now-abandoned project – Takhisis is an album in the classic sense of the word, with a feeling of narrative and direction. That feeling throughout is of midnight rituals and dangerous knowledge, in service to and worship of She Of Four Names, forming the narrative basis for the album. That several years passed between the first songs being written and the album being released is not readily apparent – there’s a great deal of consistency and flow here, even if the newer, later half of the album is slightly stronger in its song-writing.
Takhisis is also a surprisingly accessible listen, considering that it’s essentially a concept album about a destructive, vengeful goddess. The riffs are strong and catchy, with a great deal of power to them, and though most of the album doesn’t veer far from its occult doom template, there’s enough subtleties and differing textures between and within songs to ensure they don’t become monotonous or repetitive – save for when repetition is the aim, of course, such as on the title track. This track is a particular highlight, hypnotic and captivating in its ritualistic feel, and the way the narrative of this particular song coils back on itself is a clever move; as is the way it then gives way to the vicious, up-tempo ‘Soul Swallower’, which is another highlight of the album. It’s on this song that the building violence of the album is unleashed, and the results are very impressive. By contrast, that ‘The Rage of Tiamat’ holds its violence in check is what makes it such a strong song – there’s a feeling throughout of barely restrained anger, and of bloodshed just waiting to be unleashed. It is the sound of anticipation before battle rather than the actual conflict itself, of helpless cities watching as their doom approaches, and it’s bloody great.
There’s a tendency with doom bands and albums for those involved to reduce the music to its most common denominator; to avoid taking risks, to stick to a well-worn template, and assume that a collection of riffs which recall classic bands will be enough to get by. With this in mind, Takhisis is to be commended not only on the strength of its doom, but also for those creative risks it does take. The album is divided in the middle by ‘Gratissimum ad Inferos’, an atmospheric piano-led track that plays a big role in keeping the album interesting, serving as a palate cleanser whilst also setting the scene for the longer doom songs in the second half. The album also ends in an atypical way, with the short, atmospheric ‘She of Four Names’ being the perfect way to close the record, given its atmosphere of death and emptiness – a fitting end to the album’s narrative.
Of all the albums Pope Richard has been involved in, Takhisis is probably the one I’ve listened to and enjoyed the most. Its doom is strong and accessible, and the creative risks and ambition ensures it remains memorable and interesting. In other words, it’s just how occult doom should be.
Takhisis is available to download via Bandcamp.