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Dødsengel – Bab Al On

dødsengel – bab al on


The unorthodox creativity and impenetrable darkness that Dødsengel managed to evoke with their earliest recordings were of a major influence on the revival of Norwegian Black Metal, so near the end of the 00’s. Together with a handful of other bands and the famed Terratur Possessions label, the term ‘Norwegian Black Metal’ was given a new musical identity and, above all, new breath of life. Not so much founded on Darkthrone or Gorgoroth, Burzum or Mayhem, but an obvious musical identity of its own formed from eccentric and unconventional song writing.

The release of ‘Bab Al On’ marks the band’s fifth full-length album and although not particularly prolific over the last few years, possibly prompted by the busy schedule of vocalist/guitarist Kark who has been doing mostly production work in recent years, the band manages to push their boundaries further with each recording. No album (or short players, for that matter) is easy to listen to, it takes some perseverance and to some extent, an acquired taste as well. With their idiosyncratic way of writing riffs, sometimes dissonant, other times long-winded or just downright contrarian, the music never gets a natural flow. Instead, it leans mostly on an ambience of unease, an atmosphere of torture and agony.

This is no different on ‘Bab Al On’. Between the Black Metal songs, a ritualistic atmosphere is evoked in a special way by almost a cappella vocal pieces that are sometimes soaring, sometimes quite beautiful but often purely dreary. The whole thing takes on an occult atmosphere that fits well with the conceptual idea behind the album, which revolves around the goddess Babalon, from Aleister Crowley’s Thelema system. Although Chaos is Babalon’s partner, she represents the sexual impulse of the liberated woman and thus also Mother Earth in all her fertile beauty. Crowley in turn seems to have based Babalon on the Whore Of Babylon. An ancient concept in which the Whore Of Babylon, with largely the same characteristics, is often depicted riding a scarlet beast with seven heads and ten horns.

That occult flavour is woven throughout the album and adds an interesting dimension. However, it does not make this album, which at over 72 minutes in length is already on the hefty side, any easier to get through. Neither does Kark’s vocal delivery, who has quite an impressive vocal range, going from semi-grunts to unmelodious screaming vocals and from beautifully clean to a more standard Black Metal rasp. It can be argued without a doubt that Dødsengel have pushed their musical boundaries further, but the listening experience comes under increasing pressure. By no means this new beast of an album can be labelled mediocre or disappointing, it is in fact exactly what was to be expected from the Norwegian duo. The question is basically if they have pushed things too far for your personal liking, or if you are still riding the beast yourself.

Although I am not averse to a musical challenge and do not turn my hand to unconventional and unorthodox, dissonant, a-musical cacophony, I always find Dødsengel a gargantuan challenge. Musically and also production-wise, in terms of sound, everything is brilliantly put together and there is actually really little to criticise, but all in all, this is another album that demands a lot from you as a listener. Not to mention its playing time. But if you’re up for it, the album might just be the horse to bet on.


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