FlagSwedes Flagellant rose from the depths of deepest, darkest Umeå in 2007, quickly releasing a demo, then taking 3 years to put together their debut full length release ‘Monuments’ in 2010. There really isn’t a massive amount of information on the band, no promo sheet, no back story – it’s as if they were birthed by the forests themselves, springing from the moss covered rocks and cold earth with no rhyme or reason other than to begin playing black metal. Sometimes the lack of prior information on a band is for the best, the air of genuine mystery adding to the aura of the music (even the band members are known only by single initials). This is their second full length album, and it certainly leaves a frosty chill in the bones.

The first thing that hits me is that fact that although incredibly cold sounding with a real sense of evil and dread, they don’t go down the lo-fi route. Their sound borrows a lot from modern day Mayhem, particularly the shimmering tones of the Norwegian’s divisive ‘Wolf’s Lair Abyss’ EP. Discordant yet crisp guitars chime one icy shard of distortion after the other into the listeners face akin to multiple shrapnel blasts from hundreds of sub-zero grenades all exploding their grimness at once. The rhythm section is tight, with the audible bass grinding away under the commanding drum work, reminding me musically of another relative newcomer to the scene – Nidingr; a band who share a similar crunchy yet thoroughly aggressive black metal offense. Don’t get me wrong, this adheres to black metal orthodoxy greatly, retaining its rawness and passion; it just does so without relying on a ‘4 track’ hellish production to convince you that they’re the real deal. The music served up here speaks for itself, it’s adept, accomplished and dark as hell. Not convinced? If you listen hard enough, you even get the odd D beat nestled amongst the blast beats to keep those eyes rolling back into your skull and that grimly locked jaw gurning overtime.

For a band that I’d not been accustomed with previous to reviewing this album, I was pleasantly surprised. This isn’t some cardboard shell of a black metal album, or an album that mindlessly blasting for 40 minutes – no. This album has a heart – a cold, dead one that pumps out filthy black shit right into your soul. Flagellant aren’t trying to re-invent the blackened steel, they’re just on this earth to play some great black metal – and they do so with aplomb.

(7.5/10 Lars Christiansen)