Venera: Trial & Tribulation

Although the kvltest of the kvlt may gnash their teeth and tear their hair, black metal has truly spread its wings since its early days. Yet no matter the subgenre – symphonic, Viking, folk, progressive, post-black, depressive/suicidal, bestial, orthodox, blackgazer, and on and on – there are certain hallmarks of the genre that remain in place. Speedy riffs, screeches and gravel-throated rasps, and an indelible sense of atmosphere most always stand to differentiate black metal from its metal brethren, although some purists will insist that it’s only the ideological stance – towards darkness, towards mysticism, and frequently, towards Satan – that truly make black metal black.

So then, given all of that, what do we make of a band like Slovenia’s Dekadent?

They wowed me with their 2008 release Deliverance of the Fall – a sweeping, cinematic odyssey that’s still one of my favorite black metal releases of the decade, and with a symphonic mastery I hadn’t really heard since Emperor put out Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, 11 years before. And since the album was written to accompany a short film (which, sadly, I still haven’t seen – damn region-specific DVDs), it truly felt as if I was listening to a black metal film score. A film score that alternated between moments of ferocious darkness and sweeping, gorgeous triumph.

And it’s Dekadent’s uniquely triumphant sound that really stretches against the boundaries of what we define as black metal. Their newest, Venera: Trial & Tribulation, pushes those boundaries even further. The furious blastbeats, rasped vocals and spattering, buzzsaw riffs are undoubtedly black metal, but the melodies  – soaring, graceful and shockingly positive – are most definitely not.

The recent blackgazer movement (bands like Fen, Sorgeldom, Svarti Loghin, Alcest) has flirted with beauty and grace in a way that Mayhem, Horna or Satanic Warmaster never would, but Dekadent revels in this positive energy from the very first moment. Opener “Thralldom Decree” blasts forth with major tone arpeggios and melodies, solos twist like dancing motes of sunlight, and all while vocalist Artur Felicijan rasps and growls atop this symphony of splendor. The whole thing basically sounds like a moshpit in Heaven, and if Lucifer were falling from grace while listening to his iPod, he might have this blaring into his golden curls.

Other burners like the galloping “Beautiful Fire,” thick and groovy “Providential Love,” and the darker “Craven” follow suit – lightning-fast and scrambling, but shot through with gorgeous strands of color and light where most bands are content to churn through endless shades of black and gray. And almost every song here contains a core of revelation, a sense that the song is reaching and climbing towards epiphany. This was only reserved for specific peaks on Deliverance of the Fall, and only after the song had spent some time in the depths of misery.

The consistently brighter approach doesn’t detract from the dynamics at play here, though – each song still feels like a journey unto itself. Dekadent’s dynamic palette also occasionally extends to Felicijan’s vocals as well – they’re largely a rasped growl throughout, but there’s a stunning clean chorus in “Paramours in Vain” and some chanting choirs in “In Pulchritude Adorned.” Personally, I would have loved to have heard even more of the clean choruses throughout, as they would have really taken the variety and dynamics here to a truly majestic level.

It’s also surprising how much less the band relies on symphonics here than they did on Deliverance of the Fall. The songwriting and melodies on Venera soar enough without them, but I would still love to hear them return on the next album. At least the title track, placed late in the album, delivers that instrumental bliss – and it’s perfectly placed as a climax because it’s so damn heartbreaking.

If the thought of positive, hopeful black metal makes you want to retch, that’s a shame, because you’re missing out on something truly unique here. I’m always on the search for something new and genuine, and over the course of three excellent albums, Dekadent has captivated me every time. They’ve nailed a sound that’s unlike anything in all of extreme metal – savage and sublime, tragic and triumphant. Revolutionary stuff. If you’re at all the adventurous sort, do not miss out on this.


[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
August 5th, 2011


  1. Commented by: Erik T

    Love this CD- so epic and uplifting while still being aggressive. The synths are just glorious

  2. Commented by: Apollyon

    Nice review Jordan. The previous album was the tasty cakes, so I really need to hear this.

  3. Commented by: Apollyon

    Oh, forgot. If you’re on a PC and want to watch the DVD, try DVD43. It should allow region free playing.

  4. Commented by: El Rosk

    Is this just me who thinks this have a very heavy Devin Townsend solo work influence???

  5. Commented by: moropn

    blackgazer hey…doesnt exist.another made up term by so called reviewers who lack imagination.fking pathetic.

  6. Commented by: gabaghoul

    Based on all the Google search results, it seems the common accepted term is blackgaze and not blackgazer. Looks like I got one letter wrong, moron.

  7. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    interesting stuff. I’m not sure how I feel about black metal that suggests any way out but death, but they’re definitely soaring to some interesting heights.

  8. Commented by: Angel Cat

    I’ve never heard of this band but this sounds awesome. I’m getting this as I type. I know others will disagree but my biggest complaint of metal in general is that it almost never portrays a positive attitude.

  9. Commented by: turd mcgee

    maybe these guys have invented a new genre of metal: White metal!

    I can hear a smidgen of Devy in here, especially on a song like Beautiful Fire or Providential Love, some of riffs and melodies have a decidedly “Physicist” feel to them.

  10. Commented by: gabaghoul

    I guess I need to brush up on my Devin – haven’t heard much since Ocean Machine or SYL City…

  11. Commented by: WpgTriniman

    I’ve just finished listening to this album and I’m in complete agreement with the review. I haven’t heard their other albums, but I will track them down.

    This album is so much more interesting that a lot of metal, BM and every genre of metal out there.

    I can see fans of Devin Townsend enjoying this.

    If you’re even slightly interested in hearing this album, don’t hesitate. It is different, but it is also superb.

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