WaxenShred Black Metal? Sure, we’ll give that a go. Toby Knapp’s one man band, Waxen has continued to blacken more souls with third release “Weihung Auf Satan”. Grim, dark and venomous, he takes the dark heart out of black metal and also sets out to delight those who revel in sheer guitar wizardry. With a CV that includes Onward, Where Evil Follows, Toby Knapp Band and Godless Rising, his solo project is an interesting foray into taking the black metal style a step in a different direction.

Macabre brutality and a sinister air announce “Of Black Rain And Ecstasy”. Percussively, the undertone is typically galloping and furious but feels a bit sterile and it’s a very dense, raw affair. Knapp’s vocals are heavily distorted and create more of a vicious layer across the chaos that churns underneath rather than being anything near decipherable. Did someone order a Malmsteen? Once the solos come in you can’t help but be struck with awe. Without ever feeling out of place, they soar above the blackness. Like an unstoppable force, “In Harm’s Way” keeps carrying that momentum forward. The thick, Bathory sounding riffs are blackened up and suddenly twist toward a smoother, melodic groove with moments that can only be described as majestic and simply jaw dropping.

Desperation, chaos and despair pour out of each track and the technicality of the guitars is always allowed to shine through but never appears to truly dominate. “Garden Of Blood And Bone” and “Weihung Auf Satan” are each a sea of carnage equally atmospheric and intense. There’s tautness to the rhythm throughout combined with moments that take harmonious flight hinting at Satriani-esque fret work. The militaristic feel of the intro to “Cosmic Funeral” explodes into a brain melting blast that provides a fitting finale. The malignant, hostile vocals continue to create an aura of darkness into the album’s close.

Waxen is an interesting beast. Toby Knapp has taken a style and manipulated it into something that intrigues and makes you want to play it all over again. Might Shred Black Metal be whole new sub-genre? Time will tell, but “Weihung Auf Satan” is worth getting a hold of, if for no other reason than to be amazed at his technical talents.

(7/10 Johnny Zed)