I was very impressed with Posthum’s last album, 2012’s ‘Light’s Out’ and with their approach to black metal in general which draws on the many varied takes on the genre. It was an album that rather predictably split opinion, with those that see black metal in a very linear fashion generally disapproving and those with a more open minded approach giving it the thumbs up. With their third album I was curious to see whether they would bow to the opinions of the purists or continue to follow their own creative path, and I’m very pleased to see that they have chosen the latter. ‘The Black Northern Ritual’ doesn’t just pick up where ‘Lights Out’ left off; it is a clear and comprehensive step forward in every way.
From the first few notes of ‘Demon Black Skies’ everything sounds a little more complete. The production is richer, and the music has far more of an edge to it than it had previously. There’s a very definite sense of the sinister about it that was sadly lacking previously. Jon Skare’s vocals have taken an almost imperceptible turn for the better, perhaps something as simple as a more mature approach not only to the vocal method but also the structuring of the lyrics. There’s more of an urgency about the music also, a sense of that old school black metal raw hate that shines through on ‘Condemned’ and in particular on the outstanding title track with its punishing riffs offering a nod to early Gorgoroth, and a general sense of viciousness I’ve not seen from them before. By contrast, the slow and melodic flow of the instrumental ‘Vinter’ shows that their songwriting skills are sharp and varied.
The more I have listened to ‘The Black Northern Ritual’ the more I have realised how much of a progressive step it is for the band. The final track in particular, the epic ‘North’ has a true sense of classic Norwegian black metal about it with a very organic feel and a sense of vastness. The atmospheric ambiance of this part of the album is in stark contrast to the gnarled brutality of the title track, instead giving rise to a feeling of oneness with nature that you would more likely associate with some of Agalloch’s or Drudkh’s early work. There is definitely more of a sense of cohesion about this album than we have seen from them before in that this fits together far better as an album than their previous efforts, so rather than a collection of songs we get more of the sense of a journey. This is one to seek out if you like some finesse in your black metal.
(8.5/10 Lee Kimber)