SkyggeI was toying with the idea of trying a few new metal pastures this year after a fairly ‘black’ year last year. But sometimes you just have to follow where those foetid winds take you and, three weeks into the new year, Skygge’s Antiqua Ignis has blown me right back into very black waters indeed with its stench of malevolent rebellion. Resigning to my inevitable fate, I pressed on towards the descending dusk. Antiqua Ignis is full of sinister melancholy and utter abandonment. Ghastly, distant vocals mixed with foreboding riffs that unfold like leathery demon wings offering the chance of pure darkness.

I must admit this is my first brush with Skygge and my first impressions are that it’s a beast. Intelligent, at times even subtle and unpredictable, but a monster all the same like a primal force unleashed. Antiqua Ignis is hatched from the diseased spawn of miasmic, occult black metal, but with the emphasis on some prime quality, second-wave material (add the name of any number of 1990s-era Norwegian bands in here but Darkthrone springs to mind). But then it flexes its blood-soaked sinews this way and that, dabbling with the whole pagan influence on the genre without getting bogged down in anything that you could outright put your finger on as heathen metal as well as tossing in a bit of pure Taake-style black n roll for good measure. Skygge is a melting pot of crackling energy which nicely captures the essence of black metal without being in any way either accessible or unnecessarily ‘cvlt’ (although if you want to experience a glimpse of the pretty amazing deconstructed version check out the ‘Necro’ mix of Nocte Initium Imperium on track ten which did make me ponder on whether the whole thing might not have taken a yet more sinister turn with a complete overhaul – or more appropriately ‘underhaul’ – of the production). That said, I wouldn’t want to give the impression that this album is anything than utterly uncompromising. What we have here is still a bleak and brooding with its enveloping, foggy fuzz but intoxicatingly addictive at the same time.

The first couple tracks do just what it says on the tin – pure, cavernous, occult black metal with dark, unforgiving riffs aplenty. By the third track Draconis Serpentis, Skygge have really set about sucking the light out of proceedings with a nightmarish, driving and hypnotic ode that begins to provide firms signs that these guys are really planning to take this somewhere interesting. The moody rhythm bleeds into the next track before we get a first taste of the buzz saw guitar riff that I’ve always most associated with Taake (or even Fra Underverdenen-era Kampfar). Antiqua Ignis then takes its shadowy salute onwards into ever morphing realms. It relies heavily on driving arrangements as hooks rather than giving in to melodic temptation and then constantly reforming, determined to drag you down into the dark spell. The result is a landscape where the sun never sets – probably because it never rises in the first place. Utterly bleak and thrilling at the same time. A triumph of dark forces over light where the only failure in absolute victory is that it ends at all. If things carry on like this it’s going to be a very black year indeed.

(9/10 Reverend Darkstanley)