Massa Damnata

If Satyricon weren’t boring they’d be Panchrysia. I hadn’t heard of these Belgian black metallers until recently so I had a peek through their back catalog. I was surprised to find how familiar the riffs were. After two releases with an oppressive, Zyklon-esque production, 2008’s Deathcult Salvation adopted more of the cold, clinical style of turn of the century Moonfog Records releases.

Massa Damnata continues this approach, while also dialing back the songwriting into more mid-tempo, rocking sort of black metal. Not dumbed-down, but just sort of streamlined. Little infusions of clean singing and some bluesy guitar solos add to the rock and roll vibe.

There’s a great consistency and flow to the album, such that it’s a little difficult to point out highlights. “In Praise of Folly” and “The 13th Horseman” show off the most variety in composition, with slow sections reminiscent of Thorns, while “In Gloria, In Excelsis” is the most furious and aggressive track presented. If anything that really demonstrates how much less vicious this album is than the last three, as it’s nowhere near blistering. You won’t find anything like “In Creation of a Mortal Spirit” or “Dark Ages” on Massa Damnata. The feel is more murderer-creeping-through-a-hospital than it is grim, northern forests.

They finally throw in a curveball with the final song “The Curtain of Darkness and Death,” an entirely melodically sung song that begins with a phone call to a lawyer admitting to killing a bunch of people. Instead of using a clean, chanting sort of voice that you often find sprinkled in black metal, the voice used on most of the track has more of a gruff, stoner rock vibe, and it honestly works really well.

Other than that, not much here is all that inventive, as for the most part it could have been released right alongside Satyricon’s Rebel Extravaganza, Thorns‘s self-titled album, and DHG’s 666 International. And though I don’t dig it as much (and it doesn’t have any zany electronics), I think it’s better than anything that those bands have done since then.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Andrew Young
May 2nd, 2012


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