Talk about a statement of intent.
As soon as the first chugging bars of ‘The Regicide’ boom out of the speakers it is clear that we are in for something special. With a riff that sounds like a more metallized Wolfpack, it wraps a claw around your puny throat and doesn’t let go for the entire duration of this, dare I utter the word, masterpiece.
‘Gnostikoi Ha-Shaitan’ is a real gem from start to finish. We are in the darkest depths of the Finnish black metal underground once again but something tells me that these visionaries are destined for bigger and better things.
So, what is so great about it?
The song writing is frighteningly tight and well-honed. The production is robust while retaining plenty of the murky grit that we associate with Finnish black metal, and then there are the vocals. Jesus, those vocals. While pretty much every aspect of this release is spot on, Famulus Zetekh’s performance stands out as a highlight throughout.
From red-eyed, vein popping bellows that call to mind hardcore luminaries Breach, to a deep throaty roar not unlike Kaosbringer from the mighty Neutron Hammer. There’s also Fields of the Nephilim styled clean singing and the desperate wails of guitarist, Sombre Chaoswinds, down to the inclusion of seductive and ethereal female vocals on ‘Aura Mystica’. Every angle is covered and nailed.
That may read like a confused list of influences but it is to their credit that they manage to draw so many disparate styles together and fire them back out in such a cohesive and convincing manner.
The effect is not a million miles from Canadian mob Cold Northern Vengeance, only perhaps a bit more refined. Where CNV seem to sprawl their tentacles out into various different dark pockets, Saturnian Mist draw their influences inward, the resulting sound focussed and unified but surprisingly kaleidoscopic.
It is hard to pick favourites as there really aren’t any weak tracks, but the mighty centrepiece ‘Sacrifice of Faces Unbroken’ springs to mind as a particular highlight.
Referencing Blood Revolt in terms of vocal intensity, its call and response vocal patterns also bring to mind another of Nemtheanga’s successful extra-curricular dalliances, the colossal ‘Accuser/Opposer’ from Marduk’s Rom 5:12.
A struggle of good and evil between the characters The Magician and The Thief, that song displays such a vital and spell-binding vocal trade-off that the music slinks off into the background, subtly underscoring the power-struggle at play. It is simply a work of genius.
The female vocals that lace the brooding ‘Aura Mystica’ add some real magic, too. They sit back in the mix, haunting the mid-paced claustrophobic armature of the song, never intruding on the stygian atmosphere. Think of Satyricon’s ‘Black Lava’ as a loose point of reference.
The booklet also deserves a mention. It is crammed full of lyrics, photos and quotes taken from some mysterious journal, whether real or imagined I’m not sure, but it seems to follow some general concept of human weakness and degradation.
Appropriate enough and maybe fairly obvious but still a nice touch, it rounds out the experience perfectly.
While Saturnian Mist are firmly rooted deep within the black metal underground it is not inconceivable to envision them breaking out of those parameters and appealing to a larger cross-section of metalheads.
A work of sophistication, darkness, power and craft. I cannot recommend this one enough.
4.5 / 5 – Andrew Cunningham – 15/01/12