AVHailing from Dublin, Aeternum Vale have been making a racket on the UK and Irish underground scene in the past couple of years with their brand of Celtic black metal. Drawing high praise for their live shows and from touring peers such as Rotting Christ and Primordial, they have emerged from the studio with their debut album ‘Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges’, which roughly translates from Latin as “In times of war, the law falls silent”. The album is a labour of love, having been entirely funded, produced and released by the band. So there’s no doubting the band’s tenacity and determination, but do they cut the mustard musically?

Clearly not lacking in confidence, the band decided to record the songs for the album completely live in order to maintain the energy and hatred with which they were conceived; a trick that works for many black metal bands, although it’s always a risky move trying to balance out that raw black metal sound against the inevitable criticism that it can draw in terms of the performance and production. Aeternum Vale manage to stay on the right side of the fence, although as their music is more of the melodic black metal variety rather than outright pure bleak nihilism of 1st wave BM, perhaps they could have benefitted from spending a little more time on the production. That being said, being a self-funded and produced effort, a few concessions can be made on that front. Opening track ‘Smash The Pillars’ sets a very strong marker, with a doom laden introduction that quickly gives way to standard black metal tremolo riffing. The vocals of Colin Byrne are at the lower end of the black metal scale, with angry roars that borderline a death style in a solid if unspectacular manner. There’s plenty of energy in the voice but very little variation in style, which becomes increasingly noticeable as the album goes on. Musically things vary between quite interesting to the unimaginative, but never too far either side. The standard plod of ‘I Take Leave Of The Sun’ contrasts with the staggered pacing of ‘On Barren Soil We Fell’, which is the standout track of the album.

There is a lot to like about Aeternum Vale and the approach they take with their music, as they clearly have a very strong belief in what they do and the manner in which they go about it. They believe that the music should speak for itself and allow it to do so with the minimum of interference and fuss. On top of that they are clearly very nice lads as was evident from their detailed, informative and extremely polite press pack. With all this, I really wanted to say that the album was as good as I was hoping, but I’m afraid that it’s lacking a certain something. It fails to really capture the imagination and often finds itself falling a bit flat, often due to a lack of variation in the songwriting. That being said, they are clearly a talented bunch of musicians, and I don’t think that there’s any problems here that a few more years songwriting experience wouldn’t put right. They certainly have a great album in them, but I don’t think that this is it. Not yet. Certainly worth checking out though.

(7/10 Lee Kimber)