Venificum
Enigma Prognosis

US black metal just never seems to find its way to these ears, and when it does it’s generally the grimier, warlike stylings of Epoch of Unlight and Forest of Impaled or the raw frozen grimness of Goatwhore and Leviathan. In the symphonic/atmospheric category, only Vesperian Sorrow has graced these ears with any true mimicry of the symphonic Nordic sound.

So enter Illinois’ Veneficum, with a cosmic take on symphonic black metal worthy of Norway itself. Despite the star ward leanings and song titles, the album rarely fully indulges a full on space metal atmosphere, instead brief samples and snippets of celestial grandeur grace the generally traditional symphonic black metal visage. The synths/programming is the force of the music, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say Enthrone Darkness Triumphant era Dimmu Borgir didn’t come across as a major influence, just listen to the opening of “Existential Stellar Palette,” for an example of true Norwegian atmospherics. On the whole though, Emperor, Sirius, Arcturus, and Covenant all fight for time as major influences, but Veneficum, don’t ever come across as a pure clone, with the spatial tones and fairly individual songwriting, they carry themselves as slightly more ambitious than Dimmu wannabes.

What I enjoyed about the album is the restraint of the cosmic elements, rather than endless beeps/whirrs and buzzing samples, the themes is carried lyrically with only minimal spacey injections, without a lyric sheet, you will be hard pressed to fathom the extraterrestrial concepts, as Jason’s synth work is often grounded in familiar epic orchestration rather than sample/programming overload. Sure, the grandiose overtures convey a vast atmosphere, but it is never mechanical or robotic, rather wondrous and infinite. The guitar riffs are the expected mix of Norwegian blastbeats and controlled sections all rendered in suitably pristine fashion from the Finnvox production. The songs are generally lengthier than usual, most clocking in around between the five and eight minute mark, and there’s the expected intro (“Odd Weather”), and predictable mid album instrumental, atmospheric break (“Tired Aeons”), but the long songs do tend to drag on somewhat as the album draws to a close.

True album opener starts the album with a big bang, as “Psychological Orb Unrest,” contains all the key components for a superb epic song: whirling blast beats, grand piano work, and surprisingly admirable solos. The following songs all retain a high degree of skill and competence, but often wane due to their length. Sometimes the Dimmu influences rise to the surface a little to thickly as shown at the three minute mark of “Oblivion Sektor” and the vocals of G.Reymond reverting to the distorted, robotic growl a little too often. Although of a high quality, the songs don’t have too much different character from each other, instead all consisting of equally competent amounts of hyperspeed and slower synth laden moments of astral introspection (noticeably “A New Consciousness”). Apart from the second track, its kind of one of those albums you listen in its entirety rather than pick out particulars songs.

To Veneficum’s credit, I could actually listen to this on headphones laying out in the yard looking at the night sky. The band definitely has a solid grasp of their peer’s delivery, but drummer/vocalist G.Reymond, is sloppy in his fills. A new drummer has since been added to the lineup. The album definitely peaks early and levels out, though it is never dull, but 15 minute instrumental closer “Reflections Collapse” never got finished upon anything past the first listen. Still, Veneficum give their European peers a run for their money, with their overall high standard and solid delivery The production, songwriting and obvious influences ultimately add up to a distinctly professional, European sounding and very pleasing black metal album. A very promising band and debut album.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
April 9th, 2004

Comments

  1. Commented by: Nick

    Great review of a forgotten album. I was impressed with this one overall. Some of the songs like “Oblivion Sektor” and “Bleak Transparent Face” offered a lot of atmosphere and a distinct coldness. All of the instruments do their jobs but it is the keyboards which lead the way on this journey through the universe.

    Recommended.


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