Welcome back, Hecate Enthroned! The symphonic Black Death Metal giants have made a comeback after 6 years of studio silence. Active since 1995, they are said to be UK’s longest-running underground act and one of the most respected. Did their newest release, “Embrace of the Godless Aeon”, further on strengthen that image?
It’s an album of solid production value, very high on atmospheric impression, epical symphonic melodies, an interesting melodramatic vocal and good technical execution. A throwback to earlier BM days: I could go on and say they’re a better version of Cradle of Filth or a duller version of Emperor, but you’ve probably heard that. Occasional gothic and ambiental influences are here, too.
Hecate Enthroned are dedicated to main ideas the band had from its very start: creating a powerfully evil, shocking Black Metal atmosphere. Though, after many previous releases, that mindset leaves little space for creating something new, risking an album with many elements (see how many subgenres and techniques are mentioned?) but little depth to it. It wears out trough time, leaving us with a record that failed to deliver what they once had: for example, “Dark Requiems… And Unsilent Massacre”’s sinister feeling based on contrasting drudging BM riffs with symphonic parts or the raw energy of “The Slaughter of Innocence, A Requiem of the Mighty”. I felt the energy of the record be in some parts almost positive, whether that was their intention or not.
On the other hand, it does sound generic sometimes but parallel to that leaves you stunned with something simply fun. For example, when they combine shrieking with growling vocals, add expressive drumming and a steady piano background, and later on take that sample to a heavier riff is very sonically effective. What I mean by this is that their songwriting is good; smooth transitions and balance of sound and emotion. It’s not something we haven’t heard before, but it’s a ride and it’s well done. They give little regard to trends and do what they want – you can hear it throughout 2 decades worth of work, be it a good or bad thing.
Did I mention Sarah Jezebel Deva’s soprano? Her talent enrichens the band’s performance. Personally I’m not always a fan of those because it’s at risk of sounding forced or kitsch, but – as mentioned when I talked about songwriting – this time it’s not the case. Also: a song featuring her, 9 minute-long “Erebus and Terror”, finished the album high on its symphonic touch – just the way it began (that time in an old-school instrumental intro, of course).
Like all things, there are up and down sides to this record, both of which I tried to present objectively. Either way, try and give it a listen. It’s one of those albums that you’d at least, if not as a whole record, enjoy hearing performed live. (Lana)