Spectre Abysm by Limbonic ArtRelease date: July 28, 2017
Label: Candlelight Records / Spinefarm Records
Since 1993 Norway’s Limbonic Art have sat at the table of black metal’s elite forces. For a long time the band consisted of two core studio members, main man Daemon and guitarist Morfeus. Over the years the two strong personas had a somewhat troubled time under the same banner, all culminating in Morfeus’ ousting from the band shortly after the release of the excellent comeback album Legacy of Evil and leaving Daemon as the sole member.
Limbonic Art now remains a solo band with Daemon at the helm steering beyond symphonic waters into perhaps more straight black metal territory. People either loved or hated 2010’s Phantasmagoria, Daemon’s first solo release under Limbonic Art, personally I liked it. Many criticised its stripped-back approach with a lack of symphonic keyboard parts, showing a more raw and primal guitar-driven album, though Daemon is a guitarist so that’s what his albums will likely focus on. The textures of synth parts that were such a big part of Limbonic Art’s uprising through symphonic metal were all very much missed. New album Spectre Abysm shows Daemon once again forgoing extravagant keyboard parts yet keeping that very unmistakable Limbonic Art sound.
‘Demonic Resurrection’ summons all hell right away with a cacophony of chants and screams, building chaotic atmospheres over pounding drums until drum-machine blasts shatter the spell. From here it’s pretty relentless. The incessant blasting barely pauses, and it’s fudging glorious. Just when you think it’s going to be a pretty straight-forward black metal track new surprises fill the void, the guitars coil and slither in cosmic directions, tremolos shake the foundations bringing doom-filled ambience and almost black-thrashy moments zipping by. The main riff is simple, maybe a little repetitive, but effective and a fitting platform to snake more forboding riffage around, which isn’t an easy task during a ten minute behemoth. The riff shifts into deeper pandemonium at the 7.30 mark taking on a more malignant form of chaos. Daemon’s scathing vocals even become more Attila-like, seething over the music and drawing menacing power with each chant. The ten minutes fly by, mostly due to being beaten black and blue by the drum-machine, with not one second of this stunning opener being neglected.
‘Omega Doom’ follows the equally brilliant ‘Ethereal Traveller’, with both tracks going hand-in-hand in intensity. ‘Omega Doom’ instantly leaps boundless into blast beats and old school riffage whilst high tremolos bleed through the punchy introduction. The track leads into a more doomy segment with awesome guitar hooks and funereal ambience. The otherworldly bellow of “Omega Doom” as ominous and thoroughly spine-tingling strings play is utterly compelling.
‘Disciplina Arcani’ is all about atmosphere, nerve-shredding shit your pants atmosphere bookending more mid-paced black metal. Final track ‘Through The Vast Profundity Obscure’ opens with the booming of timpani drums, which sounds strangely similar to the theme song from that old kids TV show Dinosaurs… seriously Google it! Ignoring that comical and oddly out of place intro the theatrics continue with a rising mass of high-pitched riffs before tearing into the song proper. Once we get there it’s a thrill ride throughout with dizzying hooks and blast beats until the end.
Now, here’s my one and only gripe, and no it’s got nothing to do with the damn keyboards. Believe me, I’m not one of those fans who gets stuck up on the keyboard/synth element, don’t get me wrong I love the symphonic infusion but it’s not what matters, and Daemon is clearly focusing on what does, so that to me is not the issue. I like my bands to sound like the way they sound without veering off into too much experimentation, and thankfully Limbonic Art sound like Limbonic Art still. Limbonic Art is just fine in Daemon’s more than capable hands. The music is tight and furious and production is fairly crisp despite still retaining this ethereal raw quality, but maybe things could progress further and regain the band its status at the top end of the table if other musicians were brought in. If Daemon is happy to keep Limbonic Art as his baby and release an album every seven or so years then that’s great, I’ll still be there to buy the next one. But I cant help but wonder how a full band could propel Limbonic Art back into the stratosphere and wipe away some of those fan complaints, replacing the drum-machine with flesh and blood for example may inject more character into sometimes monotonous blast beats and the addition of extra minds may deal with the supposed lack of creativity flowing through the music of the past couple of albums. Having said all this and you having read it of course, you could brush off these gripes and enjoy the album for yourself.
Spectre Abysm is one of those albums that relishes the structure of atmosphere and has no interest in quick stabs of ferocity to tell its demonic story, hence the lengthy tracks and drawn-out blasting. The seven tracks on display are so crammed full of crazed old-school black metal riffage and hyper blasting that it’s impossible not to love it and there’s certainly enough hooks to keep the complainers quiet. Daemon’s song-crafting is otherwordly, passionate and utterly devastating in its density of consuming soundscapes, making the listener tumble through a cosmic journey through a really quite brilliant album. Whether or not you’re a pre-Phantasmagoria fan or new to the band you cannot deny the fantastic breadth to this album and what one man and his drum machine can achieve to define his sound. There really is an ‘art’ to it.