Diabolus Arcanium
Path to Ascension

It’s like label boss Kunal and his magnificent imprint Transcending Obscurity has a never-ending well of awesome artists to draw from.  Next in a long storybook of metal gems come the Indian-founded, aggressive, symphonic black metal band Diabolus Arcanium and their debut LP, Path of Ascension.  Truth be told, I’m probably the wrong guy for the job on this one and I can admit that, but despite my rather mundane reception for symphonic black metal in general this is pretty good.

Opener “Inno Arcanium” is a sprawling, orchestral epic that unfolds in layers of piano, synths, gothic male/female choirs and layers upon layers, textures upon textures of moody ambience.  Horns and percussion are added as needed and the entire piece is hellbent on setting up one intense mood.  “Kingdom of Sin” begins with Bethlehem-like chanting before diving headlong into a mid-tempo double-bass beating, dirge-y riffs, melodic keyboards and sneering vocals that are frequently interrupted by monk-like recitations.  Fans of Dimmu Borgir, Hollenthon, Catamenia and maybe even Cradle of Filth can get behind this.  It had me head-banging more often than not thanks to some jarring tempo fluxes and riffs that provide a good deal of heavy besides the neoclassical keyboards.

“Bloodlines” phases into existence on the wings of a pulverizing, frosted-over double-bass pattern as the riffs congeal into a demonic, sludgy power chord gumbo with vocalist/guitarist Hex sneering his way into the fray with frothing at the mouth, strangulated screams.  Soaring synths and chanting vocal hymnals do a good job of interjecting variety into what could be a very copycat type of sound; Hell, these maniacs even rely on raw, old school blast beats and atonal noise-guitar chords for the creation of an oppressive, acerbic atmosphere that dwells amongst the pretty pantheons of keys/orchestrations.  “Ascension” opens with a doozy of a riff that suckles from the riff-y teat of prime Celestial Season with the synthetic elements acting more as accoutrements rather than taking over the entire track.  It’s an expert build-up that makes the barren, battalion black metal stomp all the more effective whenever it takes center stage.  The more I listen to this band, the more their blackened darkness reminds me of The Year of our Lord only if that band was a much more straightforward Norwegian proposition.  This tune is filled to the brim with dirty riff grooves, esoteric keyboards and a general atmosphere of grandiose depression that’s a real bi-polar affair.

Instrumental piece “Arrival” is a strict symphony song where the sweeping theatrics completely leave the black metal elements in the lurch.  It’s a nice reprieve and generous respite for the sludgy staccato chugs and locked-on syncopation heard during “Of Fire and Ashes.”  The folky, medieval swirls and swells are quickly given a bloody lash to the back thanks to the whipping riff torture and frenzied arctic blasts.  An easy album standout “Spiritual Entropy” has some of the most noxious blast-beats on the entire album, putting the band in line with some of the more lo-fi progenitors of the genre as vocals spray acid and riffs evoke some mean ass, driving grooves within a whirlwind of symphonic shrapnel.  “Frozen Dreams” and “Christ Eradication” fuck around with grimier, doom-tinged riffs and frequently drag the pace to a crawl while “Herald of Darkness” reverts to stop/start, seizure-inducing blackened thrash where symphonies are chopped to bits thanks to bloody raw 6-string surgery.  The album closes with “Kingdom of Sin (Orchestral)” which is the neoclassical counterpoint of the aforementioned blackened riffer “Kingdom of Sin,” and it makes a fine endnote for an album that’s dedicated to taking the listener on a journey with no clear cut beginning and end.

Though my distaste for the genre is somewhat well-documented Path of Ascension is a strong release with a lot of unique ideas going for it.  This record can be as pretty as it is slaughtering and the variety in song compositions will keep you on your toes and guessing throughout.  Solid stuff that is highly recommended to fans of the genre…

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
February 16th, 2016

Comments

  1. Commented by: E. Thomas

    really liked this- a little different kind of symphonic black metal.


  2. Commented by: Jay

    Me too Erik. I’ve played it several time beyond the review. I like that they are rawer and more toothed than some bands I hear playing this stuff. Still got the pretty parts and classical stuff, but something dirty is going on underneath…pretty cool mix!


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