Y’know, I’m all for keeping black metal weird – sure, make it psychedelic, make it doomy, make it folky, whatever – but sometimes when it comes to the darkest form of metallic fury, I don’t want my balls tickled, I want my skull crushed. Problem is, a lot of the bands that go for the straightforward thing are more boring to listen to than watching corpsepaint dry.
That’s why it took me so long to check out Blackdeath, of Russia. For the longest time I assumed they were some kinda third-rate Judas Iscariot ripoff, which is therefore like a sixth-rate Darkthrone ripoff – who needs to waste their time with that but the most cloistered of cult-stacking teenagers? Their location didn’t endear me to them either; Russia is mostly known for lo-fi Nazi-sympathizing BM bands like Temnozor, Forest and Old Wainds, none of whom I am crazy about (although Old Wainds is OK). And then, there’s the name – Blackdeath. About as generic as it gets, that…
Well, imagine my surprise when I clapped my ears on Blackdeath’s newest album, Katharsis: Kalte Lieder Aus Der Holle. True, this three-piece is not reinventing the wheel, but as far as traditional, asskicking black metal this is pure headbanging satisfaction.
Clearly inspired by the Norwegian bands of yesteryear such as Burzum and Darkthrone, but not clones of said bands by any means, these warriors have been recording Satanic hymns since 1998. With quite a few releases under their belts including splits with SF one-man-band Leviathan, Finland’s Horna and France’s Mortifera, as well as several full-length albums, you can see Blackdeath is dedicated to their craft. Apparently, according the write-up for the album from their label’s website, this is one of their first releases with a real drummer, but I don’t know if that means they used a drum machine or just session drummers previously (luckily many of their previous recordings are available for free download on their website, so I can catch up!). Whatever the case, Blackdeath knows how to work as a finely tuned unit, with memorable riffs and vocal patterns, strong production and no lack of just plain killer metal songs.
The riffing has plenty of variety, going from strummed power chords to more dissonant, mangled riffs to melodic tremelo sections. The bass, like many black metal bands, is just kind of there, holding it down, and the drums pound away with suitable variety – nothing to showy but solid and strong as hell (the drummer, Maya, is female, too, for those keeping score of that kinda thing). The vocals bring the most spice to the proceedings. Taking cues, it seems, from the manic and unhinged style pioneered by Germany’s Bethlehem but not aping that style altogether like some bands do (ahem, Shining…), singer/bassist Para Bellum keeps it pretty intelligible the whole time while cultivating a rather psychotic approach.
Highlights include the opening track, “Licht Ist Mein Tod,” with its staccato vocal exclamations, “Die Verzweiflung der letzten Folter,” a long and riff-filled epic with a killer, swaying outro section, and “Die 666 Dimension,” the most melodic song musically on the album but the most obtuse vocally, with some weird chanting and intoning rather than the wild shouts and shrieks of the rest of record. The production is well balanced and surprisingly clean, in fact maybe a little too clean – a bit more grit might help make Katharsis even more crushing, but everything does sound pretty heavy and loud, so no complaints really.
For a dose of pure black metal, no frills, no keyboards, no pomposity, no bullshit, you can’t do much better than Blackdeath’s Katharsis. This album is a total banger, crusher, rager, ripper and all-around bomber. I’m really kicking myself for not getting around to checking these guys out; because “Blackdeath is black metal” indeed.