Belgian Black Metal has been on the rise in recent years. The times when we could only name Ancient Rites and Enthroned are now far behind us. In recent years, I have been quite surprised by the high quality output of our southern neighbours. We got excellent releases from bands like Walghinge, Dikasterion, Effroi, Forbidden Temple, Hertogenwald, Heinous, Perverted Ceremony, Crypts Of Wallachia, Orkblut, and Moenen of Xezbeth. But both Gouffre and Phlegethon’s Majesty have too released a few great demos, proving all the more how fertile Belgian soil is. These two acts have joined arms on this split 7” EP, released earlier last summer by Medieval Prophecy Records.
Phlegethon’s Majesty opens the split EP with their track titled ‘Eurydice’s Ascension To Oblivion’. A haunting synth intro offers the opportunity to brace yourself for the mainly up-tempo Black Metal where the keyboards seem to be largely omitted. However, there is also plenty of thought given to dynamics, halfway through the song a point of relative calm is built in where the tempo drops back and the vocals switch to spoken word. My French is a bit rusty, so unfortunately I can’t quote exactly what is being narrated, but I’m sure it has to do with Eurydice. She was the bride of singer Orpheus from Greek mythology. She died a tragic death the day before their wedding when she tried to escape from Aristaios, the shepherd god. A scene already brought to life in music by many composers, and now also in rather gritty but at the same time quite atmospheric Black Metal.
On the other side, we find Gouffre from the Wallonian town of Verviers. Although I think they are not a (direct) member of the Ancient Houds circle, to which Phlegethon’s Majesty does count itself (along with the aforementioned Orkblut and Crypts Of Wallachia, among others), the band does fit right into that same musical lane. Although Gouffre does sound a lot more primitive in intent. It is more along the lines of mid-period Darkthrone and early Gorgoroth. It’s colder, grimmer; for that matter, anyone who ever comes near Verviers will certainly recognise the region’s past glory and decline in the paleness of the music. However, like its Norwegian counterparts, it is quite ingeniously put together. A riff that sounds simple at first encounter, actually seems to be quite resourceful and manages to find the right structure with the shrill tone and seamlessly weaves into the underlying melodic layer. As a climax in the closing seconds, an eerie-sounding melody creeps through the song and ends the track in style. This high-quality Black Metal comes from the fingers of a whole bunch of musicians who are well versed in (Belgian) Black Metal, amongst them we recognise Sidney Schmitz (here under the name Tsotha) of Nartvind and Eole Noir, among others, who are certainly no newcomers. So the offered quality is far from surprising. (FelixS)