Sunday, October 14, 2007

hellenic horror

ravencult - 'temples of torment'

released: september 2007
dark essence records

1. the sigil of baphomet 2. in times of demise 3. onslaught command 4. blessed in heresy 5. commence the burning of heavens 6. the nightsky codex 7. utter cold void 8. the needles of truth

After a few more months of absence, nothing better to kick too.many.records. back to life than a bit of fucked-up black metal from hell, right? Well, it's not really hell, it's Greece, but don't let that little fact affect your judgement of Ravencult, because there is little Mediterranean-ness, or none at all, in their music. Unlike, say, Rotting Christ, to keep it in Greece, or Negură Bunget, to go a little bit up north to Romania, who are both living proof that black metal can jolly well have nothing to do with creepy Nordic woods, Ravencult have chosen not to wear their geographical origins on their sleeves. 'Temples Of Torment', their debut album, goes in the same direction that the couple of demos and the EP had gone already - which is the traditional orthodox BM sound.

Okay, so there are the foundations for a bit of bashing, right? Fortunately, this is one of those times when it's really cool to be wrong. There isn't anything revolutionary, or even mildly innovative, about 'Temples Of Torment', but sometimes we should remember that if something is well done, it doesn't have to necessarily break new ground all the time, or at all. When I say we, it's also a bit of self-criticism. We snobby reviewers are a bit obsessive about the originality thing, which at the end of the day is a good thing, because creativity should be valued above all things, but can also have perverse effects, like demeaning records that are pretty (or ugly, in this case!) conventional in form and/or concept, but are nevertheless quality releases that end up being played a lot even after we have scoffed at them about being "generic".

'Temples Of Torment' is a perfect example of that, as it is mostly following the footsteps of genre classics but it's also a blast anyway, exhaling a foul, evil atmosphere and providing diversity and meaty slabs of blasphemous brutality. The fact that important figures are involved in this album, like Knut Magne Valle (who played guitar for Arcturus and Ulver, for example) who produced the album and Stephen O'Malley (Sunn O))), Khanate) who did the cover art, lends a certain credibility to the band and might make a few more people take notice, but might also give misleading expectations. There is nothing experimental, melodic or lushly produced about 'Temples Of Torment' - sandwiched between the over-saturated samples of a church choir that open and close the album (similar to the one that precedes L'acephale's savage 'Book Of Lies'), you get no-frills, keyboard-free nasty black metal in the vein of Darkthrone or Bathory, except with a better sound and a few deviations into mid-tempo, like on 'In Times Of Demise, that work really well in terms of atmosphere.

Regardless of the speed, the aggression is vicious and constant, the bile reaching its high point on the hideously creepy 'The Nightsky Codex', a dissonant Aura Noir-like song that would be a serial killer hiding in the woods if it was magically turned into a person.

If you like your black metal raw and abrasive, while still maintaning musicianship and quality songwriting, Ravencult should be on your list of priorities.

the good: an example of how there's always life in a genre if things are done right, truly evil atmosphere
the bad: nevertheless, there isn't anything new here, or greek for that matter

song of the day:
'The Nightsky Codex'