Attaining to recapture the roots of Norwegian black metal, in defiance of the scene’s progressive bastardisation, Arvas certainly managed to deliver an uncompromising blast with 2013’s ‘Into the Realm of the Occult’. (Subsequent to reviewing that one, it’s disappeared from the face of my computer, unfortunately…) Anyway Arvas – with their historic ties to Gorgoroth, Koldbrann etc – are back to relive the glory days for those who, like them, have “a mature and elitist taste”.
The album begins in cinematic fashion with the sound of some demonic force terrifying mortals. But it’s not too long until Arvas reemerge in characteristic fashion: drums blasting and clattering, riffs tearing at flesh and screams torturously belted out. An immediate bonus with regard to this album is how the bass audibly clambers all over the place – providing a bit of a unique aesthetic for this style. And it’s hard to see how this forcefully conventional approach won’t appeal to black metal adherents as ‘Beholder of Demons’ clearly demonstrates their lineage to Gorgoroth. As the disc plays through, the generic aspect is (as intended by the band) unavoidable. Whilst at times it can leave you thinking that there are better examples of second wave black metal to be listening to, Arvas still has the ability to catch you off guard – like the section in ‘Redemption Black’ where it slows down, driving riffs in your flesh like nails before flying off.
These plus points persist throughout the album. On ‘Summoning’, the time change around the two-minute mark certainly elevates us out of the normalcy which characterises the majority of the composition. However, there are far too many swathes of the album that do fall into the run-of-the-mill camp or, worse still, seem like unnecessary appendages. In the latter respect are the drawn-out ‘Intro’, the brief Celtic Frost-like ‘Faith of Negatron’ (which has potential) and the completely forgettable blast that is ‘Consumer of Filth’. Aside from appearing unfocussed or underdeveloped, these add-ons prolong an album which is far too long for what it is at forty-seven-plus minutes; especially as the the quality varies so much throughout. On one hand, you can be confronted with a track like ‘Path to the Fires of Hel’, which purposefully overwhelms the listener, only for it to be followed by something as interminable as ‘Starlight Eclipse’.
Overall then I would say that ‘Black Satanic Mysticism’ is a nondescript example of Norwegian black metal. On the level of orthodoxy this is certainly the band’s aim, though from what I recall of its predecessor, the material here is far less consistent. At best it’s just above mediocre and certainly not worth investing money in unless you are one of those diehard worshippers of the genre at its purest. Suffice it to say that I’m a tad disappointed with ‘BSM’.